Deanna Moon-Leotaud lives Rebeiro Trace, off the Penal Rock Road, with her husband and four children. Looking out from her home she began noticing persons in the community going to and from the village shop and returning with one item.
It occurred to Moon-Leotaud, the coordinator of the Social Needs Committee, St Dominic’s RC Church, Penal, that maybe they needed one item to complete the day’s meal. “I saw a need beyond the monthly hamper distribution,” she said.
She shared an idea with her sister-in-law, who advised, “just try it”. Moon-Leotaud, a teacher at ASJA Girls’ College approached friends and donations got started.
“I put it out on social media and from co-workers, relatives, friends, contributions started coming in…. people would send items; people who were far away sent money so that we could buy stuff”.
The Community Cupboard officially opened July 31, 2021. Her online post announcing the initiative stated: “The Community Food Cupboard is open. Thank you, Jesus. Thanks to all who contributed. Please if you know anyone who can benefit from the Cupboard, tell them about it. Spread the word.” Things got off to a slow start as passers-by looked on with curiosity but did not take anything.
Moon-Leotaud verbally encouraged passers-by to take what they needed. She displayed a sign that the items were free. Residents realised that they could take items without feeling self-conscious. The cupboard was re-stocked with a few items once daily.
The high-demand items are: oil, flour, rice, sugar, milk. Peas and beans, corned beef, sausage, tuna, baby formula, and toilet paper were among the other items stocked.
Sometimes she went to the cupboard and saw strangers had left food. Farmers in the area donated spinach, avocados, green fig, plantain, peppers. The fresh produce was a “big hit”.
When she could not be present, one of her daughters helped monitor the cupboard, and replenished when items ran low. It was closed on rainy days. Moon-Leotaud said there was a “hiccup” Saturday, August 7, when someone took everything. She only realised when someone asked why the cupboard was empty.
She hopes it does not happen again but from that episode she learned to control how many items were stocked. Moon-Leotaud has been praised for her initiative and it has inspired others to consider starting a cupboard in their own area.