2020 was a difficult year, not only because of COVID, but because the global pandemic came right on the heels of an economic turndown. Increased demand and decreasing volunteers and food donations made things challenging. But we continued to focus on our common goal and that is to FEED THE NEED. Last year, we distributed 41% more hampers than in 2019. These numbers did not include the number of clients we assisted with the other programs we offer; Bread & Extras, Snack Attack, After the Bell, WAM hampers or Meals on Wheels.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who volunteered through this roller coaster of a year. With increased sanitation and rigid protocols in place, we stayed safe despite being in contact with well over 4,000 people.
In late 2020, the Food Bank took over the intake process from the Community Resource Centre which allowed us to launch a Diversity and Inclusion program. It was important that we recognize not all of our clients were familiar with the food we were providing. While diversity relates to the differences between people, inclusion relates to the quality of the human experience. Inclusion is not a natural consequence of a diverse community and it is our job to understand what people need to feel valued and included. In support of this program, we also launched a blog on our website, that provides information on foods that clients may not know how to prepare along with our “Veggie of the Month” campaign. There are simple recipes included in each post.
We also took over the delivery of the Good Food Box Program which makes top-quality, fresh produce available in a way that does not stigmatize people, fosters community development, and promotes healthy eating. This program is open to everyone! In taking on this program, we have created a vehicle whereby the public can purchase a box to donate to the Food Bank. These donations cut down on our shopping for fresh produce for the hampers saving us time and money. I would like to specifically thank Karen Logan, Doris von Tettenborn and Debbie Switzer Cook for administering this program.
The Backpack Program has also been taken over by the Food Bank. This program provides school supplies to those in need. Special thanks to the Aheer family for their donation of backpacks and their time to stuff them in 2020.
After taking on all of these new programs, we are relieved and excited to welcome Patricia Virk to our team as the Client Care/Volunteer Coordinator. She will play an important part in our ability to provide exceptional service by providing support for the clients and volunteers. Patricia will assist Mardi in the daily activities of the Food Bank, booking and facilitating eligibility interviews, maintaining the Link2Feed and Better Impact programs and overseeing the volunteer development program.
While public education and awareness is paramount to the success of the programs we offer, it has been a challenge over the past year with school closures and visitor restrictions. We have a dedicated space in The Anchor where we can share our wish lists, programs, and any other information we want to disseminate. We appreciate Barb and Steve Jeffery for providing this service free of charge. We continue to share information on our social media channels. It is our hope to be invited back into schools this fall where Vicki will share her vast knowledge of the Food Bank and food insecurity in our community.
It is always important that we are diligent in building sustainable partnerships within the Community. We are forever grateful to Truman for their donation of our space, our current sponsors, donation drop off locations, the businesses and individuals who find creative ways to raise money or collect donations throughout the year.
In 2020, we formed a partnership with Lakeridge Community Church and the Varico Foundation who created “For the Food Bank”, a project which saw a large number of volunteers descend on Eric’s No Frills after hours to shop for enough food to supply each Christmas Hamper family for a month. They also provided a gift for each child. This generous donation was given in addition to the Christmas Hampers supplied by Pratts Food Service and bags donated by BWI filled with handmade quilts from the local quilter’s guild and other donated gifts.
In closing, I expect that the next few months and the growing city will continue to stretch our resources, but I know that our generous residents will continue to support those in need in our community.