The head organizer of the Muntinlupa Community Pantry has tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and said that it is time for other organizers to get creative in distributing food to individuals and communities.
Isay Yason, together with her friends in the Muntinlupa Food Drive (MFD) group, started the Muntinlupa Community Pantry last April 17 at Jaysons Building along National Road in Bgy. Putatan, Muntinlupa. After three weeks, they wrapped up the pantry last May 8 and are now organizing mini-pantries at different venues.
Yason tested positive for COVID-19 and through her experience, she told the Manila Bulletin that she wants other pantry organizers to know that there are other ways to give food to people and communities besides organizing a pantry.
Muntinlupa Community Pantry is the biggest pantry in the city and has provided free food and non-food items to thousands of people and communities including prisoners and senior citizens.
A few people who learned about her situation told her, “Ayan sa pantry mo yan eh,” which to her had “negative connotation. I knew there was something off about it even if they didn’t mean any harm.”
Now, Yason wants to raise awareness and encourage other pantry organizers to be more careful.
“I want to remind my fellow pantry organizers that COVID-19 is still out there and we need to stay vigilant especially now that we are at the front lines providing others with food,” she said.
She added, “It was only clear that I got sick because I wanted to help those who are in need to be able to eat today. At the same time, those who are in need are risking their lives and families by lining up under the heat and amidst the pandemic because they have nothing to eat anymore. It has become a die if you do, die if you don’t situation, right?”
“I would rather believe that I should use it to raise awareness that our fellow countrymen are out there in the streets, enduring the heat, pollution, and the virus because the government has been failing to provide adequate basic support such as food,” she explained.
Yason said, “People have been lining up as early as 5 a.m. in order to secure a chance to be able to get a few cans of sardines, one kilo of rice, coffee, milk, noodles, eggs and vegetables. What if there’s a way we can address this without putting ourselves at risk?”
Last year, her Muntinlupa Food Drive started distributing food during the pandemic.
“Based on our food distribution last year, it was a much safer alternative to repack goods for a family rather than encouraging everyone to line up at our pantries and create a super spreader event. There are a lot of ways to be creative about it. You may donate to specific sectors like orphanages, home for the elders or to jails. Buy out your local vegetable stands and tell them to give some to those who they think needs it. Pledge to finish Manang Lugaw’s quota of bowls for that day. There are so many ways to help and I don’t think we should be constrained to community pantries,” she said.
“This will be an eye opener for other pantry organizers. Actually nahu-hurt ako when people say “ayan sa pantry mo yan” which prompted me into thinking about it more. Na bakit parang ako pa ang masama? But honestly, there’s nothing wrong. Ang dami naming napakain. Ang dami naming natulungan. But I think it’s time for the organizers to get creative,” she said.
She suggests that “decentralization is a good idea also especially for the bigger pantries like what sila Patreng are doing. Also to identify sectors who are in need. At least you can bring the donations straight to them or at least order straight to them, you don’t have to go out of the house.”
Despite her getting sick with COVID-19, Yason said she is still committed to continue the pantry to help more people.
“Gusto ko pa rin ituloy but I will be using the next few days strategizing how to do it. Tuloy pa rin how we donate in bulk to the orphanage, home for the elders, and prison. But baka better if we go back to our old style which is to repack. But we’ll see what I’ll come up with in the next few days in isolation,” she said.
She is still trying to overcome the shame that came with getting sick with COVID-19 but said she is determined to help.
“But actually, wala ka dapat ikahiya. Gusto ko lang naman tumulong. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to any of the organizers also,” Yason said.