Since February, the Hope Community Services food bank has tried to do things a bit differently and its executive director, Michele Thornhill, said they have seen results.
For six months, people using the food bank no longer had to wait in a line to get their supplies. Instead, they could have a meal at the dining room at the Northwest Harvest Church while they waited for their turn.
“In the past, they would have to stand in the line and sometimes that line was outside and people would get stressed from having to stand and wait,” said Thornhill. “So we tried to make it more respectful, less shame-based and more welcoming.”
A study presented last September by the Hope Food Collective, formerly named the Hope and Area Food Security Coalition, showed that 42 per cent of people who have problems accessing food do not use the food bank due to stigma being a barrier.
Thornhill said she has seen new people come into the food bank while regular users have given them the thumbs up.
“Lots of positive comments about how it makes them feel, so they talk about not having to stand in line and how that was really demoralizing and degrading,” said Thornhill.
Lunch can come in various forms such as casseroles or barbecues. Thornhill said they always focus on healthy food and include vegetables as a component of the meal such as salads, fruits and yogurt.
In tandem with this change, the food bank also allows its users to either take a prepared hamper or choose items that they want, in a process they call “shopping,” Thornhill said.
“It’s to give people some dignity around what foods they would prefer to eat,” said Thornhill. “It also does not make sense for us to give out [food that] somebody’s not going to eat.”