“It all started in the winter of 2020, when in-person Christmas parties weren’t really a thing, and businesses were looking for a way to donate instead,” explains Steve Wadsworth, the store’s owner/operator. “So was born the ‘corporate pallet challenge’ where donations of $500 covered the average cost of a pallet of food.”
FreshCo, in partnership with those mentioned above, started challenging businesses and residents to donate, in the form of gift cards or a cash donation, or by going to the food bank and donating in increments of $500, or whatever they could afford.
“Folks can still purchase $5 and $10 food bags inside the store,” adds Steve, “with all donations staying in Powell River and going directly to our local food bank.”
The funds collected through the drive cover more than half of the food bank’s annual expenses.
“So, money donations are accepted and handed off to the food bank to use throughout the year as they need,” he adds.
Steve says he’s seen neighbours and coworkers pitch in and pool their money to buy a $500 pallet of food.
“We’ve had people at our local real estate offices who pool all their money together. We’ve had people from the Saltery Bay Ferry Terminal who came in and bought two pallets worth of food as an example. Every little bit helps; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a full pallet. The opportunity is there for people to give any amount.”
He says this couldn’t happen without the community sponsors who help, such as City Transfer, Vicky and Bobby from 95.7 Coast FM and Craig McCahon from Designer Signs, who updates the donation signage on a daily basis.
Last year, more than $46,000 was donated directly to the local food bank, which covered the cost of around 80 pallets of food. Almost another $20,000 was donated directly to the food bank during the “Stuff the Trailer” drive.
Food bank manager Savanna Dee says she spends between $90,000 to $120,000 per year on food.
“We couldn’t survive without FreshCo; they do whatever they can to help,” adds Dee. “FreshCo is there to support us and help us. Steve is awesome. He’s the most giving, helping community member I know of who makes the food bank work.”
Between the drive and corporate pallet challenge, the food bank received almost $64,000 last year, just over half of its annual spend.
“People want to donate $2, or they buy the $5 and $10 bags of food and give it to us, or they get together, or corporations get the $500 pallets of food,” explains Dee. “Oh, my goodness, it’s amazing.”
And the need is growing. Before COVID-19, the food bank was adding five to 10 new clients a year. Last year, Dee saw 95 new faces. Now, more than 2,000 clients visit the food bank.
“So many people are in need because of the rising cost of rent and groceries and higher everything; people are really struggling,” she says. “If you’re hungry, we give you food. But with COVID-19, it’s been really hard on a lot of people.”
Dee encourages everyone to donate what they can.
“Hunger doesn’t take a vacation, it is constant, and especially at this time of year,” says Dee. “Our motto is ‘feeding our community,’ and that’s all we do, try to feed our community so every plate is full.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation can stop by FreshCo at 7040 Barnet Street or the food bank at 6816B Alberni Street between November 27 and December 10.
On December 10, the final day of the drive, a wind-up party will be hosted by 95.7 Coast FM in the FreshCo parking lot, where Steve and his team will challenge community members to bring in their final donations.