Hope’s food bank is staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be ramping up operations to a weekly service as others close their doors.
Several non-profit and church programs are taking precautions and closing their meal services, to both protect guests of these services and their volunteers. In response, Michelle Thornhill said the food bank will now be ramped up to a weekly schedule.
Thornhill is executive director of Hope Community Services, an organization that runs several programs which previously were lifelines for families in need of baby supplies and food. These are for the time being closed, but the food bank will continue every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Northwest Harvest Church.
The food bank will look different, with bagged lunches being provided instead of a sit-down meal. Other physical distancing measures include only one person being allowed in at one time, separating people six feet apart and having food bank staff wear gloves and possibly masks. People can come weekly for the bagged lunch as well as produce and bread, and can receive a hamper once a month at any of the food bank days.
A families-only food bank day is also planned for Monday, April 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where baby supplies, baby food and diapers will also be available on request.
How many more people will come to the food bank this month is as of yet unknown, Thornhill said, but she does anticipate an increase. The reality is that the need at any time of the year is great. “We’ve had people say if it wasn’t for the produce that we gave out every day that they would starve to death. That’s really hard to hear,” Thornhill recalled.
Those who come to the food bank are unable to buy in bulk as many others are doing to prepare for self-isolation. If people are facing homelessness, they have the added challenge of having no access to storage or refrigeration.
The food bank is also running lower on supplies due to COVID-19. Their partner Save-On-Foods used to provide produce four days a week – this is temporarily suspended, as are bulk orders from the store. “We totally understand Save-On is doing the best that they can, but there’s just not the same amount of veggies available at the end of each day, because they’re pretty much being bought off the shelf,” Thornhill said.
In the interim, the Hope Food Bank has been getting some help from the Chilliwack Salvation Army with canned goods, pasta, rice and other items. They are still low on canned meats, canned fish and peanut butter.
And $3-million announced Sunday will hopefully find its way to the local food bank. This provincial funding is being distributed by Food Banks BC and will be distributed “quickly and equitably” and according to need the organization said.
The best way to support the food bank, Thornhill said, is through monetary donations. With the ability to buy from wholesalers, this money can be stretched further than the average consumer could walking into the grocery store. “Certainly, right now, money is king,” Thornhill said. “So we can go to different places, we can go to smaller venues to purchase what we need. Especially the produce.”