Inner West Independent

Local legend creates community through food

Rick Everett set up his food pantry to help people who were struggling with food security during the pandemic. Photo: Supplied

By GEORGIA ROBINSON

When COVID-19 hit last year, Rick Everett, an Inner West local decided to use his free time to start up a series of what he calls ‘kindness projects’.

At the age of 15, Rick was a homeless teen and after coming across a circus doing a dress rehearsal and performing some tricks for them, he was taken on, something he said that saved and changed his life.

Although he’s moved on from circus work, Rick still works as a performer, mostly in stage shows and just recently completed a five-week contract with the Adelaide festival.

While Rick always wanted to start doing kindness projects, constantly travelling and working never gave him the time to properly start them up.

“It was the start of COVID that really gave me the time to get these things started. I went from constantly travelling and performing and then instantly it was a stop,” he said.

His kitchen window faces the street, and so for his first project, he started a coffee window where other locals could come by for a free coffee and a chat.

“I just started that [the coffee window] as kind of just a nice thing for people to be able to talk to people as much for me as for other people.”

He says things just rolled on from there, and he began to look into other projects like his community pantry and fridge.

Creating community

For him, starting these projects was about providing a place for people “who might be going through some not so great things”, to come and chat and feel that sense of community again while isolating.

This is something that has continued majorly in the community pantry and fridge and he says that a lot of the time people will come to the pantry and take something small but enjoy the company more.

“My target demographic was basically to provide an emergency meal for anyone who needs it and the idea was to make it super local.”

He keeps 44 items in the pantry at all times, and when he’s home, he is constantly restocking it.

“Every time someone comes, I go out there and put the items back that they take,” he explains.

“I really wanted to just do something that was me, helping people on a one to one level, and just giving directly to people who need it in what little ways that I can. It’s so simple to do.”

Rick fully stocks the pantry himself, and at the start he probably only spent around $10 a day on it, however, he says as it’s grown in popularity, so has the cost, and although at times this can add pressure to stocking the pantry, it has in no way deterred him from continuing.

“The main reason I do it is just because I can, I can afford to pay $50 a day to keep this pantry running… a quarter of my wages to feed whoever needs feeding, is really nothing.”

When he sometimes found it difficult to afford to stock the pantry, there were always people behind him willing to offer support.

“I really try not to ask for any help, but when I do really need to, people get my back and that’s amazing.”

He describes it as a weird thing, that “even when I don’t ask for it, when things get really tough for me, and when I find it really hard to afford, something happens, that just makes it easy.”

One instance of this was when someone left bags and bags of shopping at Rick’s door, plus $300 in cash.

Food rescue

Rick also participates in food rescue, where he goes to a local bakery chain and collects their food waste, dropping it off at other community pantries in the Inner West, as well as leaving some for his own.

“I take it to the Asylum Seekers Food bank, and Homeless Teen Shelters, and any place that can put it to good use,” he said.

His community fridge came about in July 2020, a little while after starting the pantry, and he started this for the people who don’t have the facilities to make meals from the supplies in the pantry, but can instead have a meal prepared, and simply heat it up.

When he has the time, he spends a lot of it cooking, and preparing vegetarian meals for the fridge. During a three-week work break he spent everyday cooking, packing and freezing 20 or more serves of different meals, so that he can constantly keep his fridge stocked.

However, for Rick, doing these things, is not a big deal, and he sees them as something everyone can try to do.

“It’s all just so simple and small and insignificant, for me, but for the person who comes along and really needs to eat, it’s not insignificant.”

Although he says his youth and the good he has done during hard times contributed in some ways to his passion for community kindness projects, he says it’s more about the fact that he now has the means to do it.

“If something as simple as being able to eat a meal can get somebody, not through their life, but just through their day, every little bit is worth it.”

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