Community Food Pantries: Youville Gives Back

31 March, 2023 | Youville Centre

Amy LaBrash and Brittany Rossong have a lot in common. They’re two energetic people who work for Youville Centre, who are passionate about supporting others, and who won’t leave a stone unturned if there’s a way to further help their clients. Each of them recently came to the realisation that their clients were going hungry or making tough decisions about how to spend their grocery money. Each woman decided to open a food pantry at their location and are now dedicated to growing the program together.

LaBrash, a Registered Nurse who works at the St. Vital location (also known as Thunderbird Medicine from the Sky World), noticed that there was a former vaccine fridge in the back space of the office that wasn’t being used. The lightbulb went off immediately. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be something we can do with that!’ and I started researching community fridge programs,” she explains. With the support of her colleague Danica Audette and the green light from Kim Stitt, Program Manager at Youville Centre, a fresh food pantry was created for community members.

Independently, Rossong, an Administrative Assistant at the St. Boniface location (also known as Morning Maple) knew that clients were going hungry amidst rising food prices. “We’ve heard clients ask how they are supposed to buy their insulin when they can’t afford to eat,” shares Rossong. “The impact was immediate, even though our pantry is still small. This week, I had someone say to me that if it wasn’t for the food pantry, he wouldn’t have any food on his shelves at home.”

Amy LaBrash and Brittany Rossong

It’s worth noting that neither employee has “creating a food pantry” as part of their job description but they were called to help where they could, and in ways that align with their values. “The people we support know they’re taking their health for granted but they don’t have many choices due to their financial situation,” explains Rossong. “If we can help with that, we will. It’s all connected.”

LaBrash and Rossong have also thought a lot about how they want clients to feel when they’re receiving food from Youville. “The way we offer it is really important,” says LaBrash. “We bring them to the area and let them look around to see what might be helpful or useful for them, and what they might want to eat. Choice is key here. We all deserve to have choice.”

“At our site, we’ve put together a binder with instructions for how to prepare some of the basics,” continues Rossong. “It’s in very simple steps: how to cook quinoa on the stove, in the microwave or on a hot plate. Not everyone is confident in the kitchen, and not every has access to the internet to see how to prepare this food. We’re doing our best to make this easy and accessible.”

While the pantries are up and running at both locations, LaBrash and Rossong have bigger dreams for their project. “We’re trying to create a program that will be self-sufficient and long-lasting,” shares LaBrash. “We’re trying to find people in the community who can help make that a reality. We’re looking for partners and collaborations, for sure.”

Rossong is operating her location’s pantry out of a mini fridge. “The fridge is really the key here as those with diabetes need a lot of fresh fruit and veggies to stay healthy,” she admits. “So if someone has an extra fridge they want to donate, we definitely want to hear from them!”


If you’d like to donate dry goods or fresh foods to the food pantry at either location, please call 204.255.4840 for St. Vital or 204-233-0262 to connect with the St. Boniface location. If you have an extra fridge in good condition, please call St. Boniface to see if it might fit their needs!