The Chestermere Food Bank has worked throughout the year to ensure nobody in the community went hungry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In January of this year we had 76 clients, in July we had 499. That was a big eye-opener for the community,” said the President of the Chestermere Food Bank, Laurie Dunn.
“From the shut down to the end of August, it had cost us on top of the donations, and the food we received as donations, an additional $60,000 just to supplement hampers and feed the community,” she said.
Throughout the year, the Chestermere Food Bank received many donations from projects initiated by local organizations.
Local projects included the Lake Ridge Community Church and Varico Foundation working with Eric’s No Frills to purchase one month’s worth of food for each family that was going to receive a Christmas food hamper from Pratt’s Food Service.
“After hours at Eric’s No Frills, volunteers went and shopped for each family. I prepared the grocery list for each family based on the number of people in their family, we were really trying to hit the diversity and ethnicity piece, so we could give them food that they were familiar with. Each shopping list for 61 families was completely personalized,” Dunn said.
Adding, “It was a fantastic undertaking and a wonderful project on behalf of the church and the Varico Foundation.”
Reusable bags were also donated, and filled with children’s toys, books, blankets, mittens, hats, and hand sanitizer.
“It was a wonderful day of getting into the Christmas spirit,” Dunn said.
The Chestermere Food Bank also received a significant food donation from East Lake School and Rainbow Creek Elementary.
“We did not expect schools to do food drives this year. We just received the East Lake and Rainbow Creek donations, and that was fantastic,” Dunn said.
“Towards the end of the year, we have definitely seen an increase in food donations, over the spring and the summer food donations were way down, but cash donations were up,” she said.
Adding, “There have been a lot of people stepping up to the plate, and it’s fantastic to see.”
Going forward, Dunn and the Chestermere Food Bank team is continuing work to raise awareness for the programs run through the food bank.
“The pandemic really raised awareness of the food bank, but it’s still always an ongoing piece to let people know that we have a food bank,” Dunn said.
“For people to realize it could be your neighbour who needs the food bank, there isn’t a face to poverty. Sometimes it can be the most surprising person for the people who need the food bank,” she said.
A top priority going into the new year for Dunn is to continue strategic planning.
“Chestermere is growing, and the need is going to grow, that’s a big part of it. We’re trying to look forward to see what it is that we need,” Dunn said.
“Space is going to become an issue, we need to address what that’s going to look like, and the added work with the in-take process,” she said.
Adding, “Depending on how things shake out after this latest round of restrictions, and what it’s going to mean for the food bank.”
The Chestermere Food Bank will also be looking into hiring another staff member to assist the Executive Director with day to day tasks, as the intake process that was previously ran through the city is now ran through the food bank.
“The city is no longer involved in referring clients. Clients come directly to us now, and we interview them to determine eligibility,” Dunn said.
In addition to taking on the intake process, the Chestermere Food Bank is also now the depot for clients to pick up their Good Food Box.
“For us, that’s more of a service that we’re offering. We’ve made it so people can donate a Good Food Box to the food bank, and we do get fresh produce donated which saves on our shopping costs,” Dunn said.
Food donations can still be made at donation bin locations, for any businesses that are still open.
For more information, please visit the Chestermere Food Bank website at, http://chestermerefoodbank.ca/.