Senior citizens in Puente Alto receive more than 702,000 kilograms of food and basic consumer goods

In its first year of operation, the Community Pantry -an initiative developed by the Red de Alimentos in collaboration with CMPC- has delivered an average of 7.2 kilos of merchandise weekly to each of its 2,680 beneficiaries. In total, the project has completed around 98,000 deliveries.

It has been a year since the Community Pantry of Puente Alto in Santiago de Chile opened its doors to the elderly residents of the neighborhood. After the registration period and prioritization of applicants based on need, as of today the initiative  provides food and groceries each week to 2,680 people thanks to the program developed by the Red de Alimentos [Food Network] in collaboration with CMPC. 

The results of these first 365 days of operation since starting in June 2022 include 516 daily deliveries averaging 7.2 kilos of products were provided to the beneficiaries. In total, the number of deliveries added up to about 98,000, with 702,297 kilos of products for area residents. 

Silvia Mora is one of the neighbors who has been part of the Community Pantry from the beginning, receiving the products provided to her each week. The 92-year-old woman said, “We’ve become like a family because we’ve all gotten to know each other, and we share things about our lives with one another. If it’s someone’s birthday, we’ll sing to the person. Sometimes someone plays music, and it makes us all feel good. This is like a family for us. It would be great if there were initiatives like this throughout Chile because it helps us out so much.”

The 7.2 kilos of products that the beneficiaries receive every week are collected by the Food Network with the collaboration of its partner companies. These are products that are perfectly fit for human use and consumption, but the companies for whatever reason do not plan to sell, so they turn them over to this food bank so nothing gets wasted. In recent years, the Food Network has focused especially on collecting agricultural products to encourage healthy eating. Therefore, the provisions of this Pantry break down as follows: 59% fruits and vegetables, 15% liquids, 9% dairy products, 3% toiletries and personal hygiene and 14% were of miscellaneous food categories.

“Thank you to everyone who is part of this initiative. They are helping us out with this donation that helps lessen the financial burden at home, so we’re happy. I come on Tuesdays since that’s the day of the week I can be here with you all and be with the elderly,” said Raúl Vera, who even sent a letter to the director of a community media to express his thanks for the work of the Community Pantry. 

CMPC Head of Corporate Affairs in the Metropolitan Region Pía Fernández said, “We’re quite pleased with the reception we’ve had from the thousands of residents who are part of the Community Pantry. They value this program a great deal as it provides significant assistance, especially in the context of high food prices that we are in today. We are also very motivated about the future of this program, which includes a series of activities for beneficiaries who will hopefully come out in high numbers.”  

Likewise, the Community Pantry fulfills an environmental purpose. Those at the organization have calculated that the delivery of these products has enabled an emissions offset of 1,641 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere since they were recovered rather than wasted.

María Eugenia Torres, General Manager of the Food Network said, “This Community Pantry in Puente Alto is possible thanks to outstanding teamwork to implement this mechanism of direct aid to a segment of the population particularly affected, such as the elderly that do not reside in nursing homes or other support organizations. We prioritize those that are highly vulnerable. Many of them live alone and their monthly pension payments are not enough to cover all their basic needs such as housing, healthcare and food. Therefore, our goal is to improve their nutrition and quality of life, making available the best mix of products we can get with the recovery work we do as a food bank, as well as making the Community Pantry a meeting space that offers support and activities focused on their interests and needs.”

Quality of life

To learn more about the beneficiaries who are part of this initiative and implement other measures that contribute to their well-being, the organization in charge of the project conducted a characterization survey of those enrolled. The result showed that more than 32% of older adults participating in the program have often felt or always feel lonely. 

In addition, of the total number of people enrolled in the initiative, 74% are women and 26% are men and more than half of the people receive a monthly income of less than CLP 200,000. Furthermore, their average age is 71 and 47% live alone.

That is why a programmatic plan was developed that sought to identify the topics of interest to the beneficiaries during its first stage. Recreational activities or those connected to finance or physical and mental health were some of the most relevant topics that came up.

In this way, the team works to offer beneficiaries a range of workshops, talks and conferences such as cooking classes, mental health operations or conversations about applying for subsidies and advice on accessing pensions, among others.  

The community pantry is located at 860 José Luis Coo Street and operates from Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 2 PM. Each beneficiary is assigned to come pick up available products on a specific day.