Responding to a special time of need, local organizers from the faith community and area service clubs are building a harmonized effort to help stock the shelves for the anticipated increased demand for the Sunshine Coast’s food bank services.
“Now more than ever we need to make sure the food banks are funded,” said organizer Kenan MacKenzie, representing the ecumenical group. “People will be laid off and who knows how long before government funding comes through for them, or they can return to work.”
With most residents now self-isolating but still wanting to help, volunteers have set up an online Virtual Food Bank Drive at sunshinecoastfoodbankdrive.ca. A web link enables donors to make financial contributions through Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS), to be distributed equitably among the four food banks or to a specified food bank of the donor’s choosing. Tax receipts for amounts $20 and over will be issued.
Even before the website launched, Coast residents were rushing to give. A GoFundMe campaign raised $600 for the St. Bart’s Food Bank in just 20 minutes. The Gibsons Rotary Club, employing the Zoom virtual meeting function, pledged a grant of $5,000 to the Salvation Army’s Harvest of Hope Food Bank in Gibsons, and another $5,000 to the St. Bart’s Food Bank. And then they issued a challenge to the Coast’s Sechelt and Pender Harbour Rotary Clubs, as well as to other service and community groups, to match or surpass their generosity.
Sunshine Coast Credit Union pledged $5,000 and challenged other financial institutions to contribute as well. Likewise, Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish pledged $100 to the Food Bank Drive and called upon other elected officials from the Coast’s five governing bodies (SCRD, District of Sechelt, Town of Gibsons, Islands Trust, and shíshálh First Nation) to match or surpass his donation.
And on Facebook, the group “Flatten the Curve – Sunshine Coast BC” eagerly anticipated the website launch, asking when they could deliver financial support.
With provincial, federal and local government directives regularly rolling out new restrictions with respect to public health, Sechelt Food Bank coordinator Norm Blair notes, “Things continue to change by the hour.” Food banks may not accept private food donations due to concerns about cross-contamination, and so “cash is king.” Helen Macham, one of three coordinators for St. Bart’s Food Bank in Gibsons, adds that cash donations enable wholesale purchases to meet the specific shortages that may occur month to month. “Area grocery stores are allowing us to tail our orders onto their bulk purchases, which has two benefits: it reduces exposure (to virus) and allows us to do almost a one-stop shop for our needs.”
And the needs are growing. Observing all social distancing protocols, both St. Bart’s and Sechelt Food Bank moved their most recent distribution operations outdoors and restricted access to ensure the two-metre (six-foot) perimeter between people was respected. Sechelt served 217 families in six hours, while St. Bart’s similarly reported one of its busiest days in its 10-year history.
In this time of crisis, organizers are confident the caring Sunshine Coast community will come together with support for the online Food Bank Drive.