The Boundary Community Food Bank is bracing for another wave of demand in what has already been a record year for the innovative program that serves the expanse of the Boundary. On its first Tuesday in January, it filled the fridges and cupboards of a record number of clients. They eclipsed that a month later, and again on March 3, when 96 households came in to collect some food.
Now, as residents buy up more at local grocery stores while some Boundary businesses are forced to layoff staff – many in the retail and service sectors – as a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers are looking at how to serve more people with fewer food options.
“Basically anything that is a nutritious food that you would eat in your home, we could use,” said Lynda Hynes, inventory coordinator for the food bank. “We’re going to go through a ton of food. We’re currently feeding about 500 people every month, and so if we add another couple hundred onto that, that’s going to be a huge.”
(On March 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that for the week of March 16 to 20, Service Canada saw approximately half a million Employment Insurance claims – more than five times as many as were filed at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis.)
Clients are able to go to the food bank one Tuesday per month to help round out their food needs.
A run on the shelves at grocery stores can hit clients of the food bank twice. The first, when they go shopping for items to find they’re not there, and the second time when the food bank doesn’t receive the many near-date items it’s used to receiving, such as meat cuts and vegetables.
”I know that that the panic that is causing lots of people that buy is even harder on those that don’t have enough money to go out and do that buying.”
In January of this year, the food bank received 7,556 kilograms of perishable food from Save-On-Foods – about half of it was good to eat for people. Now, Hynes said, “We’re still doing that but it is just a trickle.”
Hearty proteins from the meat coolers of local stores are also now less likely to feed food bank clients, Hynes said about how what’s available from grocery stores has rapidly fallen this month. “Getting protein out to our clients is going to become a bit more challenging,” she said.
Like anytime of year, but particularly now, the food bank is looking for community help to stock up its own shelves, much like many households have done, to be prepared to serve. Keeping in mind social distancing and transferring germs, Hynes said that “the clearest way that I can think of to donate is to do cash online – that means you’re not going into any place, and [it] gives us the most flexibility.” A donation link is available on the food bank’s website, boundarycommunityfoodbank.ca. Donation bins for food are also available at the entrances of grocery stores in town – Hynes said that pasta and pasta sauce “top the list” of items sought.
As far as actual operations go, the food bank has also had to streamline its own process to ensure social distancing and sanitary requirements are met. As of March 24, clients will not be able to select their own items for themselves. Instead, they’ll be asked to stay outside as a hamper is passed to them by a volunteer who is guaranteed to have washed their hands within the last half hour – “We’ve dedicated one of our team to be the one that makes sure anybody doesn’t slip past the half-hour mark,” Hynes said.
For clients who do not want to venture beyond their home, or can’t and are practising social isolation to protect themselves and others, the food bank and Gospel Chapel have arranged for doorstep service.
“If they’re going to do any delivery,” said Pastor Doug Dunbar last week, “We’ve got guys that would be ready to do some driving too.”
Stores change hours for vulnerable shoppers
Save-On-Foods is opening at 7 a.m. daily, specifically to allow seniors and vulnerable shoppers the chance to do their groceries while avoiding potential crowds that can grow later in the day. In a news release last week, Save-On-Foods said that its stores are “not experiencing a widespread shortage of food but [are] working around the clock to address supply chain challenges the company is facing in getting goods to stores.” The store will also no longer be accepting reusable bags, but will be offering deliveries through its website.
Buy-Low Foods in Grand Forks is offering grocery delivery on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week. Interested customers are asked to call 250-442-5560 for more information.
Extra Foods is also offering free plastic bags in lieu of personal reusable bags as one way to reduce germ sharing opportunities in the store. A hand sanitation station is also available.
In Midway, McMynn’s Family Foods is also offering grocery delivery for customers between Greenwood and Rock Creek. Customers can also call ahead and ask that their order be collected and readily available for them to pick up, if desired. Interested shoppers can call 250-449-2242 for more information.