The initiative was inaugurated at the end of 2021 in an alliance between the VíasChile Group and the Food Network and today it is contributing to the healthy and sustainable nutrition of one of the most vulnerable segments in that zone.
The first Social Pantry in the country and in Latin America, located in the Municipality of San Bernardo, is about to reach its second anniversary. Thus far to date, the balance since its startup in December 2021 reveals highly positive results regarding physical and social benefits of this initiative for thousands of low-income elderly in the community.
The project was developed by Corporación Red de Alimentos with the collaboration of the VíasChile Group through Autopista Central. Since it was opened, this space has become positioned as a meeting place for an important group of at-risk senior citizens, so efforts have been centered not only on the gratuitous delivery of varied food and toiletries weekly, but also on creating a recreational space where the beneficiaries of the Pantry can now attend talks, yoga classes and arts and craft workshops, among other activities.
The San Bernardo Social Pantry currently helps 2,561 locals, corresponding to the majority of the elderly at risk in the community, meaning people who earn income or receive a pension below the minimum wage. More of the beneficiaries are women than men.
From Monday to Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., senior citizens can receive an average of 6.9 kilos of products, especially seasonal fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates and cereals, corresponding to non-expired surpluses from different companies. The idea is to make optimal use of certain merchandise to keep it from being thrown away.
Between July of last year and July 2023, this initiative has furnished 776,069 kilos of food, and even though the majority of those going to the Pantry do so to receive provisions for them and their families, several of the beneficiaries go spontaneously to the Pantry to collaborate voluntarily on restocking the products on each of the gondolas.
For Andrés Barberis, Chief Executive Officer of the VíasChile Group, the San Bernardo Social Pantry is one of the best projects in the country and the region because of its seal of integration and social wellbeing. The joint actions taken by the members who today support the initiative were intended to have the Pantry work well, but the effort also focuses on establishing a circular economy.
In the words of Barberis, “the project presents several opportunities for the elderly in San Bernardo and for society. And the fact of ensuring the good of the community for a more sustainable environment is part of the commitment that we have adopted with great pride in our company.”
In addition to the social seal, the initiative has an innovative view as it bases its actions on a model that aims for sustainability. Proof of this is that certain fruits that are not consumed by the beneficiaries are taken to zoos to be fed to animals.
Moreover, of note in the project is the use of sustainable materials in improving the location’s infrastructure, such as paint mixed with Photio – a nanotech additive that captures CO2 and cleans the air, which was applied in the remodeling of the Pantry floor. Added to this are the 2,640 tons of CO2 accumulated between November 2021 and July 2023 that were not emitted because of the recovered food.