February 18, 2014
By Drew A. Penner
The Comox Valley is bracing for anticipated ricochet effects from the planned May 10 closure of Safeway in Courteany, affecting 120 full and part-time employees.
Remembering a time when the store was the largest grocer in the Comox Valley, Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said the business would be missed.
“They were always a big part of the Valley,” he said. “The sad thing is we’re talking about the livelihoods of up to 120 families.”
On Thursday Canada Safeway announced the location was not financially up to snuff and would be closed, following a regular review of operations.
The same day the Jim Pattison Group-owned Overwaitea Food Group said it would scoop up 15 grocery stores in B.C. and Alberta from Sobeys Inc., which recently acquired Safeway in a $5.8-billion deal last June.
Courtenay’s Safeway location was not one of these stores.
John Graham, director of public affairs with Safeway Operations said the company has been pondering the move for months.
“It’s a store that we’d been monitoring well before the acquisition by Sobeys,” he said. “In recent years it’s struggled to meet financial targets.”
In the grocery sector prices have not kept up with inflation in recent months and a confidential document emerged in December from deep within Sobeys’ executive chambers revealing it was planning to leverage its new heft thanks to the Safeway buy to put further pressure on food suppliers.
While Graham wouldn’t comment on the letter to suppliers from Dale MacDonald, senior vice-president of category management and national procurement at Sobeys, he acknowledged the challenges Safeway has faced in battling it out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
“We’re no stranger to competition in any market,” he said. “I think you’re seeing – not only in Courtenay but across Canada – more US competitors entering the Canadian marketplace and Canadian players looking to expand their business.”
Jangula said we’ll just have to wait and see what the ultimate impact is on the Comox Valley.
“It opens up a whole kettle of worms for everybody,” he said, adding he hopes workers will be able to find other employment relatively easily. “Some of them will find it difficult to pay property taxes on their own bills.”
No one likes more bad news, in the wake of the about 20 downtown store closures in the last year.
“It’s concerning,” he said, “as is all the economic bad news we’ve heard from downtown.”
Mark Middleton, president Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association, said the closure will hurt area businesses.
“That’s going to trickle down into less money spent at restaurants, pubs, and sporting good stores until these people get back on their feet somewhere else,” he said, adding the Safeway jobs had the advantage of not paying minimum wage. “They were some of the better paying jobs in that sector.”
Middleton said the BIA is waiting to hear from Thrifty Foods, which is also owned by Sobeys and could be pondering a move to the current Safeway location, following the shut-down.
Sobeys reps declined to comment on whether such a move is in the cards.
“If the ripple effect of that is Thrifty moving and affecting the BIA, then yes, we’ve got an issue,” Middleton said, noting the foot traffic attracted to the core by the downtown grocer has significant economic benefits for the area. “I hope they find another tenant.”
Maryanne Palmer gets up early to begin her 5 a.m. shift as a grocery stocker at Safeway. At least that’s what she used to do when there was more work to go around.
“There are no hours, you know?” she said. “Since Walmart went in it’s been pretty quiet.”
Thursday’s big announcement didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.
“I was surprised but on the other hand I wasn’t, because it’s just been so dead in there,” she said. “Except for around suppertime.”
Now she’s facing the prospect of applying for jobs sought after by her fellow employees.
But she knows the bigger impact could be felt at the Comox Valley Food Bank where she volunteers. Every day the non-profit organization receives about 60 boxes of apples, oranges, potatoes, lettuce, dairy and other items from Safeway, allowing around 150 of the Valley’s most vulnerable residents to get important nutrient rich food five days a week.
“Instead of throwing it away they pass it on to the food bank,” said Comox Valley Food Bank Society president Jeff Hampton. “If we lose this fresh produce connection it may have an affect on us being able to be open.”
Other stores do pitch in as well, but they mostly just provide bread and milk, said food bank manager Susan Somerset.
“We’ve tried and it’s really tough to get the produce,” she said. “We’re going to have to beg.”
Already the food bank tells residents to try to come for veggies and dairy once a week, so there’s enough to go around. Now the organization is looking at different options for dealing with the loss of the supplier, including purchasing canned vegetables – which would be at an added cost.
“It’s going to make a huge impact,” Somerset said. “I don’t know what we’ll do.”
View original story here.
Jan 15, 2014
Comox Valley Record
The Comox Valley Food Bank is very grateful to our kind donors from the Comox Valley and environs for the variety and quantity of foods so generously donated to the food bank through September to December 2013.
We, at the Comox Valley Food Bank, wish to extend our most sincere thank you for the ongoing effort, commitment, logistics, time, caring and thoughtfulness demonstrated by so many of the wonderful people and groups in the Comox Valley.
Jeff Hampton (Food Bank President)
Susan Somerset(Food Bank Manager)
View Original Article here.
“From what I understand, they’re experiencing bigger crops this year,” said Hampton. “They’re producing quite a bit of produce and they don’t know what to do with it. The food bank can use it.”There’s a lot of fruit trees in the valley and a lot don’t have any concern on what’s left or what’s growing on them. The food bank can use some of that stuff and just pass it off to people that need it.”
The food bank doesn’t have the capacity to pick the fruits but Hampton said, a local group, LUSH Valley Food Action Society may be able to help. It has a program where they get to pick fruit trees and end up with one third of the harvest, one third going to the tree owner, and one third to the owner’s choice of charity. Hampton hopes the food bank could be a beneficiary of the project.
During the summer months, donations of food and cash slow down dramatically said Hampton but they pick up during Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.”When it comes summer time, people tend to forget about the food bank,” said Hampton. “It’s really dry time for us. It’s been tight. We’re on a budget.”Hampton said they try hard to stretch their budget and make them last until the end of the year, but it has been a struggle.”I’m over budget now,” said Hampton. “I went out and made a fairly major purchase and we’re tighter than we were. But when I go, that money, I usually buy such big volumes that I can get them at half price. A lot of people, they go out and buy stuff for us but they can’t get the deals that I can.”
Hampton said the number of people that rely on the food bank has increased over the years. It currently has 5,100 people on its list.”We’re experiencing a lot of people that have part-time work but does not earn enough to make ends meet,” said Hampton. “It used to be in the past, we deal mostly with people who are on social assistance but that has gone down. We’re seeing a lot of working people and we’re experiencing a lot of seniors coming in too.”
People are eligible for one food hamper per month. But the food bank is open mornings from Monday to Friday – 9:30 a.m. to noon Monday to Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday – to allow people to drop by for food items that include dairy or produce when they’re available.
People wishing to donate their surplus produce of vegetables and fruits can drop them off at the Food Bank on 1491 McPhee Road, Courtenay. They can also call the food bank at 250-338-0615. Those who want to donate funds can mail them at P.O. Box 3028, V9N5N3 Courtenay.
Hampton said the food bank provides tax receipts as long as donors can produce proof of purchase and for produce, fair market value of the donation is given.
View original article here.
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.