2020 has been difficult on a lot of people, which is evident in the 20 per cent increase in area residents accessing Powell River Action Centre Food Bank since March.
“Our numbers pretty well stay the same every year; we have people in need come and then they no longer need assistance and someone else takes their place,” said food bank manager Savanna Dee. “However, this year we are seeing a lot of first time people coming in.”
This includes single parents who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their children. The majority of people accessing the food bank are on disability or old age pensions, with 33 per cent being children, according to Dee.
In trying to keep people safe, the food bank also had to decrease its number of volunteers. Food Banks BC provided funding so two people could be employed to help out with all the physically demanding work. Another challenge has been the inability to do fundraising events the food bank has relied on in the past to stock its shelves.
“We haven’t been able to do any of our events and so we just want to remind people that we’re still here,” said Dee.
Along with COVID-19 issues, the loss of the local Safeway last December meant that the annual Stuff the Trailer event did not take place.
“Donations were down 37 per cent last year because of Safeway closing, but FreshCo will be doing the Stuff the Trailer event for us again this year,” said Dee.
Coast FM will be holding its annual radiothon, where it challenges corporations to buy a pallet of food for $500. There was also a recent We Scare Hunger food drive in town where Students for Change at Brooks Secondary School and Assumption School students set up food donation boxes at places such as PowTown CrossFit and Townsite Public Market. Thousands of items were collected and donated.
Local farms have stepped up to help the cause, including Blueberry Commons in Wildwood, and Aaron Mazurek from Terra Nostra Farm recently donated 1,700 pounds of squash.
“Local farmers who donate receive a 25 per cent provincial farm tax credit,” said Dee.
Save-On-Foods is involved in the zero-waste program, which keeps unsalable, perishable foods out of landfills. The local food bank benefits from the program by receiving meat, dairy and pastries. Quality Foods and First Credit Union have also been huge supporters, according to Dee.
People who need to access the food bank will receive fresh, healthy produce and anyone with specific dietary restrictions or concerns will be accommodated, she said.
There are vegetarian hampers and also gluten free options. The food bank also accepts donations in the form of baby needs (food, formula and diapers), toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, lotion) and pet food.
Dee said she wanted to thank the community for its support during a difficult year.
The food bank is located at 6816B Alberni Street and is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm. For more information or to make a donation, go to powellriverfoodbank.com or call 604.485.9166.