Situated in a small part of a building just off Main Street in Pincher Creek, Alta., you’ll find the area’s Community Food Centre.
Although food banks in town have come in different shapes and sizes in years past, run by a number of organizations including churches, one local group, a non-profit society with a board and small core of volunteers, has now taken the lead.
“During Covid, the town was in transition,” says chairwoman Anne Gover. “I had some time on my hands and experience running a food bank, so I thought, what if I help set up an independent society/charitable organization? I called a few friends and here we are.”
Even with her experience, it couldn’t have been easy, with gathering restrictions in place, to set up a new society.
“I learned to use Zoom very quickly,” Anne jokes.
She credits the centre’s success, after a two-year process to complete all the necessary paperwork to become a charity, on a great board that’s excited to have a stable facility.
Like Anne, food centre co-ordinator Kathleen Allen saw the need to have an established food bank program in the community when she joined the team.
“The previous co-ordinator [Theresa] used to come into the restaurant where I worked and she told me what she did,” Kathleen says. “Knowing there was a great need at the time, I wanted to contribute in some way to help others, so I started volunteering.”
Who uses the food centre?
Since starting, the centre has definitely noticed a rise in post-pandemic needs, from not only families but those considered homeless.
“Certainly in the last six months we’ve seen an increase,” Anne says.
Unlike other agencies, the Pincher Creek centre delivers food hampers twice a week rather than having clients visit the facility.
Those in need can apply by either phone or email and a physical address is required.
“That’s been our model since we started during Covid,” adds Anne. “Many of our clients don’t have vehicles so they appreciate the home delivery. It’s a service and it’s anonymous.”
The centre’s mission is to eliminate hunger by ensuring all community members have access to nutritious food, and while some food banks may limit donations to non-perishable products, Kathleen indicates the community food centre has a broader scope.
“We get a wide variety of foods [donated] this time of year from harvest,” she says. “We do receive a lot of fresh vegetables. Oftentimes, I’m trying to increase the fruit, vegetables and protein in a hamper to make it more nutritious, to make it part of a healthy meal.”
The society has even set up its own garden to grow produce.
One drawback, however, is receiving donated items with past-due dates.
“We have cases where a family member has passed away, and they want to donate the food to us that’s in the cupboard,” Kathleen says.
While the gesture is appreciated, under Health Canada food guidelines, it can’t be placed into a hamper if it’s expired.
Fall food drive
On Saturday., Sept. 23, as it’s done since 2012, the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints undertook the annual tradition of collecting donations for the Pincher Creek and District Community Food Centre.
Well over two dozen members of the church and just about as many food bank volunteers turned out for the event.
The result: 3,200 pounds in product was collected, ranging from pasta and soups to rice, jams and jellies.
Another 1,950 pounds was added to the overall total from a bin set up outside of the Co-op Food Centre in the Ranchland Mall.
“This was absolutely great to see,” says Anne. “And they [the church] provide a list of items so people know what we’re in need of.”
That need, though, is growing.
Homeless in the community
As the society enters its third year of operation, it’s facing a new challenge — how to help serve the homeless population in the community.
“One of things I think that might be helpful would be anything with a pull top,” Anne says.
“So, that could be something like stews, chili, baked beans … something that’s already fully cooked. Tuna is another example where we could give someone a can of tuna and a loaf of bread or, maybe, crackers.”
The idea is that a person may not necessarily have access to a heat source or even a can opener to cook what’s inside, but by being fully-cooked it can be eaten unheated.
Anne and Kathleen say it’s something to consider if you’re looking at donating canned goods.
Other ways to help
“Cash donations are always welcome,” Kathleen says, as an option to help the food bank.
“We will often use the cash to supplement the hampers,” adds Anne. “We won’t always have milk or eggs donated, so we can purchase that ourselves.”
Another suggestion is a grocery gift card.
For those needing help, though, the door is always open and Kathleen emphasizes that no one should ever be ashamed to reach out.
“We’re there to help,” she says.
By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 05, 2023 at 15:27