Food bank overwhelmed by donations

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The Clearview-Stayner Food Bank is very grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.
Coordinators Pam Royal and Jacky Morgan say individuals from all over, churches, businesses, schools, social groups and service clubs coordinated donations at a time when it was difficult to get together and host events. Clearview firefighters and paramedics, who hold annual food drives, found innovative ways to collect donations when there were no Santa Claus parades.
“We want to make sure everyone knows how much we appreciate the support,” said Royal.
They say while other food banks struggle to get donations, Clearview has always been very generous and more so this year than ever before.
Royal said this year, volunteers found it overwhelming. At one point donations were covering every surface of the Stayner facility, including the floor. Volunteers worked for seven hours and didn’t even put a dent in it. It took five days to clear the floor.
The problem is that the food bank has limited space, which is usually more than adequate, and has to check each item for an expiry date and best before date. They can give out items that have a best before date within the year but they can’t give out really old food. Volunteers – and there are currently only four working now because of the pandemic – have to take the old food home and dispose of it. They go to the extra effort of opening all the cans and composting the contents so the cans can be recycled.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said Morgan of the volume, but there are some unfortunate consequences.
To avoid waste, anything that comes into the food bank but cannot be distributed locally is passed on to another agency that can. For example, when the Clearview-Stayner Food Bank receives donations of baby products they pass them on because they haven’t had a baby on their client list for three years.
The unusual food such as oysters and tapenade are placed on a shelf, which pre-COVID, people could peruse and take what they like but with current protocols in place clients pick up their food at the door and aren’t able to go inside the building so that food is not getting picked up.
The hope is that people tailor their donations to what is needed locally. Volunteers regularly post a list on the Facebook page and welcome calls from those looking to make large donations. They also urge people to think of the food bank all year long and not just at Christmas.
“Right now we are not in need of much, but in August we’re shopping like crazy,” said Morgan. “The need isn’t greater at Christmas. The need goes all year long.”
The food bank serves up to 1,200 people and although there was an increase in demand at the beginning of the pandemic, the need levelled off and returned to regular levels fairly quickly. Morgan notes that unfortunately, people wait until the very last minute before reaching out for assistance. She said during the pandemic, no one has been turned away. Everyone who has come to the door has been offered assistance.
Families come to the food bank once per month to get a set amount of food to help supplement their other income. In times of plenty, people are given a little extra.
Morgan and Royal do the shopping for the fresh items and anything that is missing from the shelves. They look out for deals to make every penny count. They also buy milk, cheese, margarine, bread and fresh fruit and vegetables.
They urge people to get in touch, whether they wish to offer assistance or are in need of support. There are always specific items needed, and that need will only increase throughout the year as the holiday bounty is depleted.
To get in touch, call 705-517-0166 and leave a message. Please visit the Facebook page to see the food bank’s wish list. Regular hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The food bank is located at 7271 Highway 26 (back entrance off Gideon Street.

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