Food Bank marks 30 years
December 10, 2013
By Philip Round
Next week, the Comox Valley Food Bank will reach a milestone – the 30th anniversary of its creation back in 1983.
But there’s no time to mark the birthday, as it’s one of the busiest times of the year for what has become an essential local service for up to 700 families every month.
“We’ll probably do something to mark it in the spring,” says Food Bank president Jeff Hampton, who for almost all the three decades has been involved at one level or another with the cause.
“But what is unfortunate is that there is still such a need for us, although the people and their needs have changed over the years.
“The main change has been who now uses us,” he explains. “Only a few years ago 62 per cent of people were on social assistance. Now that’s down to 49 per cent.
“But we have just as many people in need – the slack has been taken up by the working poor who can’t make ends meet.”
Thursdays are the main distribution days for ‘hampers’ – bags of essential food – and last Thursday 262 were issued, shared between 189 households. Those households are home to 376 people, including 137 children.
Figures vary each week, and clients come and go depending on their personal circumstances.
Last year just under 8,000 hampers were handed out from the premises at 1491 McPhee Avenue, right across the road from Courtenay Elementary School. On average 667 households a month benefited.
“It’s sad, but the need for our program by Comox Valley families still increases annually,” says Hampton. “One third of those we help are now children.
“And as a charitable organization we rely on the support of individuals, community groups, businesses and government agencies for donations of food, cash and volunteer time to operate our program.”
There is a dedicated core of 35-40 individual volunteers who help out at the food bank or who coordinate efforts to gather more food donations year round.
In addition, a number of local organizations and businesses have adopted the Food Bank as one of their causes on which to focus their efforts, and some businesses – especially some supermarkets and food companies – have stepped up to help supplement supplies, especially of fresh food.
“I like to say we’ve put the seagulls at the landfill on a diet,” says Hampton. “More food that is perfectly good to eat but maybe doesn’t look good in the store – like ripening bananas – is now donated to us rather than being dumped. That’s really good.”
The Food Bank also uses a lot of its cash donations to buy fresh fruit and veg under special deals with stores; while the provincial ‘Milk for Kids’ program sees a partnership with Island Farms, where the company donates half the 272 litres of milk delivered each week and the Food Bank pays only the wholesale price for the remainder.
“It’s an excellent program that helps a lot of kids get some goodness in to them,” says Hampton. “But we need to keep cash donations coming to pay our share.”
“We’ve always been grateful for non-perishable times and boxed food – and always need more – but it’s not really well known that we also need fresh fruit and vegetables that can be dropped off here. Every little helps someone.”
The Food Bank is normally open Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m.-12 noon and on Fridays from 9:30-11 a.m. to accept donations and for urgent food distribution. Thursday is the main day for weekly hamper collection by those in need from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Food Bank will continue with its regular hours up to and including Christmas Eve, but will be closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day (although it will be open on the weekdays in between). There will be no hamper distribution in Christmas week, where Boxing Day falls on a Thursday.
While users know how to find it, the Food Bank has moved several times over the years, which can be confusing for new donors.
“Up to 16 months ago we were by Habitat (on 13th Street), and they told me that just last week they had seven people looking for us there is the space of 30 minutes,” says Hampton.
“We need people to know we’re now really accessible on McPhee and would really like to see them here.”
Thirty years on, countless thousands have benefited from the efforts of the Food Bank, and there’s no sign that demand is falling off even if the people are ever-changing.
For every one needing a helping hand, even if only for a short time while they get back on their feet, there are a score more in the community doing their bit to help keep service the alive.
“Every dollar, every bag of food and every hour of service makes a difference in the lives of people right here in our own community,” says Hampton. “It’s neighbours helping neighbours.”
Donations can be made at the Food Bank itself or to it via mail: Comox Valley Food Bank, PO Box 3028, Courtenay, BC, V9N 5N3.
Original Story can be found here.