An island food bank has cut off services to its regular clients this month, but is hopeful its fundraising efforts will allow services to resume for the month of may.
The Feed the People food bank is an independent program run out of the Islands Wellness society building in Queen Charlotte. The society offers space and some administrative service as an in-kind donation, while almost half of the operating costs are covered by Gwaii Trust grants. Bonnie Olson, the victim services and outreach coordinator for the Islands Wellness Society serves as one of the volunteer directors for the food bank. She says a temporary, unexpected leave of the program’s regular administrator left the food bank unprepared to balance the delicate finances of the program.
“We’ve just gotten to a situation where we’ve used up any extra money we would have had in the fund,” Olson says. We didn’t know how drastic it was until it was drastic. Normally I would have been appraised of that on a monthly basis.”
Olson is now finalizing the food bank’s application for its regular funding from Gwaii Trust.
“After the month we should be back on track and will be doing it again,” she says. The food bank serves people from Sandspit to Tlell.
“I don’t think people understand how much of a need this is in the community. There’s a little bit going to transient people but its mostly locals…a lot of working families. It’s just a little monthly subsidy that helps people make ends meet.”
The food bank works with Gwaii Co-op and City Centre stores, as well as other local food programs and gardeners to provide as much fresh meat and produce as we can.
Monetary donations are key to the program’s success. The food bank runs an emergency pantry with non-perishable items but regular users are given cards redeemable at the grocery stores so they can offer foods with higher nutrient and protein values.
Depending on family size, the monthly cards range in value from $35 to $75.
The number of people relying on the food bank every month ranges from 100 to 200 people.
As news of the food bank’s situation began to spread through the community, Olson has received calls from village administrators and the general public offering help with upcoming fundraising initiatives.
“The things that’s most helpful to us, frankly, is money,” Olson says. “We probably give out between $3,500 and $4,000 each month. We always appreciate food we get for the emergency pantry, but right now the most helpful donation is cash.”
Olson is hopeful the program will open again in May, but cautions the timeline is dependant on how fast the funding application can be processed through Gwaii Trust.
“We have to get our balance down to zero. I just can’t keep handing out cards we don’t have the money to cover.
“I’ve cried over this. There are people on fixed incomes, there are elders who struggle so much and this little subsidy just helps them so much. To have to take that away from them has been — people have been so understanding but it’s hard to do that to people. Really hard.”