Photo courtesy of Michelle Lee of Dawson’s CLL team in the Student Services department

Student-initiated Atwater Community Pantry fills a void

Food insecurity is sometimes misunderstood to be an issue only for those without a place to live. While this population is overwhelmingly in need, food insecurity could affect a student living on their own without the means to buy enough food for the week, or a family who has fallen on hard times.

The pandemic brought food insecurity to the fore after job losses, isolation and uncertainty about the future. A group of Dawson students who saw the hardship firsthand by volunteering at the soup kitchen Resilience on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Atwater seized on an idea to create another avenue for food distribution that was anonymous, non-judgmental, accessible at all hours and throughout the four seasons.

An initiative of Dawson students

Led by Liam Gaither, John Nathaniel Gertler, Mia Kennedy, along with Camelia Barkou, Juliana Saroop and Luka Vincelli as an incentive of the Green Earth student club of the Dawson Student Union and in collaboration with Student Services, plans for the Atwater Community Pantry began to come together.

It took almost a year during a most challenging pandemic school year, but last Wednesday, Oct. 27, the Pantry was unveiled to neighbours and friends, members of the Dawson community, and the Sisters of the Congrégation-de-Notre-Dame (CND) who generously provided the space on their grounds to build the actual pantry box.

This student-led, student-driven and student-run initiative relies on volunteers for a number of tasks, including to make periodic checks of the pantry to ensure it remains well-stocked.


Photo courtesy of Pat Phutthavong (IST)

Located on CND sisters’ property on Atwater near Lincoln

The box is located on Atwater, across the street from Dawson’s Theatre entrance on the CND grounds, close to Lincoln. It was built entirely from scratch by Liam and painted by artist Maya. Its roof is made of used soup can lids.

Anyone can leave or take food. Non-perishables are happily accepted, including feminine hygiene products; dairy products, fresh fruit and meat are not as they not only have a short shelf life, they can contaminate whatever else is in the box.

This community-wide project has brought together neighbours in an organic and benevolent manner for as many people as it can reach with a much-needed service that provides sustenance, dignity and a helping hand.


Follow the Pantry on Instagram: @atwatercommunitypantry. The most current needs are posted there and you may contact Pantry co-organizers through Instagram messaging if you wish to volunteer or have a question.

Last Modified: November 3, 2022