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Little Free Pantry in Cambridge could be removed


Cambridge resident Audrey Hill built a Little Free Pantry in 2020 to help those facing hardships during the pandemic.

She said the pantry, located in the front yard of her Jarvis Street home, has provided a crucial, low-barrier access point for food and hygiene products for individuals with diverse backgrounds.

On Friday, she received a notice from the City of Cambridge ordering the removal of the pantry from city-owned property by Dec. 31.

“There are so many other neighborhoods that have Little Free Pantries and Little Free Libraries. I'm not really sure why I'm being targeted so heavily,” said Hill.

In a statement to CTV News, the city said in early November it received complaints about a free pantry on Jarvis Street. Although the pantry is located on Hill’s front yard, the city says it owns the 10 feet from the sidewalk to the owner’s property line. The city’s survey team determined that it was in violation of its Corridor Management By-law (21-050).

The city said then offered Hill three options: relocate the pantry so that it's placed on private property only, apply for an encroachment agreement with the city, or remove the pantry entirely.

“Since the property owner had not taken any action as of December 15, the city issued a notice of contravention to the property owners with a timeline of December 31 to either relocate or remove the free pantry,” a city spokesperson told CTV News.

Hill said she has tried to contact the city on multiple occasions over the past month for further clarification but has not heard back from them.

“I’m not getting clear answers from the city. I'm concerned that if I move it they're going to find another reason asked me to move it again,” explained Hill.

The Region of Waterloo Public Health also cited worries about the safety of unregulated food donations.

In response, Hill emphasized the stringent measures they follow regarding donations.

“We don't put expired food in here. We check it regularly. We don't accept anything that's broken, dented or open,” Hill said.


Julie Sawatzky started 519 Community Collective in 2020 with a single pantry on her lawn. Her initiative has since expanded to 27 pantries, of different kinds, all across the region. She said she had a lot to learn when first getting started.

“I didn't realize it would be like jumping through hoops to get help out there,” Sawatsky explained. “We learned about how to connect with the region, how to connect with public health, what you're not supposed to put in it, how far it needs to be on the property line. It has to go on privately owned property and it also needs to be accessible.”

She is reminding the public that donations like perishable foods are not suitable for make-shift pantries.

“No meat, no dairy, no homemade foods, no tobacco, no alcohol or anything like that is permitted in our pantries. We really recommend people do things like rice, pasta, meal kits, pasta sauce and snacks.”

Sawatsky expressed hope for a resolution between Hill and the city, emphasizing the vital role pantries play in filling gaps within the community.

“People who work night shift maybe are not able to get to the food bank during business hours. Maybe they went and it wasn't a big supply. We don't ask any questions essentially -- it's come as you are, take what you need, give what you can and if you can't, there's no pressure,” said Sawatsky. Top Stories

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