Free food for Bible study, cleanup drive
MANILA, Philippines — At the “Free Store” operated by officials of Barangay Ermitaño in San Juan City, needy families can “buy” goods such as instant noodles, eggs, cooking oil and rice using the points they earned for joining community activities.
Attending a Bible study on Sundays or a cleanup drive on Saturdays can earn a resident 100 points which he can then swap for three eggs (worth 20 points), 500 ml of cooking oil (70 points) and a pack of noodles (10 points).
There are other options as well: One may exchange 50 points for a kilo of rice and 30 points for a can of corned beef.
The store, operating at the barangay’s day care center on F. Santos Street, is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was launched on April 12 as a response to the needs of poor residents who had lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving them with no means to feed their families.
“It is heartwarming to see that our constituents are very happy [about] this initiative. They could not believe that we were giving away goods for free. Even if they need to do something in exchange for food, it is considerably not that hard to do,” Barangay Ermitaño Chair Romeo Nabong told the Inquirer on Monday.
He added that aside from helping needy families, the project also keeps residents informed about activities and updates within their area.
A village councilor first proposed the concept to Nabong in late March, followed by the drafting of a resolution and activity design, both of which were immediately approved by the San Juan City council.
The barangay council then allocated P140,000 from its funds to purchase all the items —except perishable goods—for the store and cover all logistical needs, Nabong said.
Since its launching, the project has served at least 12 beneficiaries, including daily wage earners with young children.
According to Nabong, the beneficiaries are not preselected. Residents may endorse neighbors whom they consider to be qualified for assistance.
“It’s important for us to clarify that none of our beneficiaries are directly involved with the barangay. We want those who are actually in need to benefit from the free store,” he said.
While the opening of the store was targeted at those dependent on government assistance amid the pandemic, Nabong expressed hope that they could sustain the project even after the threat posed by the coronavirus goes away.
There is still money left over from the initial P140,000 allocation, he said. They have also received generous donations from other residents that have kept the store’s shelves full. INQ
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