The Archway Food Bank, in Abbotsford, is no exception to the increasing trend of food insecurity across Canada. British Columbia food banks have experienced a 31% increase in food bank visits since 2019.
The Archway Food Bank is seeing more and more households accessing its services every month. Staff and volunteers are working to meet the need through increased hours, expanding satellite locations, and further expanding food distribution and access options.
Archway Food Bank, Exterior
Home Delivery Client: Tammy’s Story
Tammy never imagined that she would have to access a food bank until a tragic motor vehicle accident in 2016 left her unable to walk or work.
After a drawn-out struggle, she now has a scooter which helps her get around, but she needs assistance getting in and out of the scooter. In the years following her accident, Tammy was repeatedly denied disability assistance despite being “100% disabled.”
She was able to live with her son but without her own source of income, she turned to the Archway Food Bank in 2020.
“I realized I had nowhere else to turn, so I called Archway as a last resort and they said they were going to help me,” recounted Tammy.
Archway Food Bank’s Home Delivery program brings food to Abbotsford residents who have mobility limitations and are unable to pick up food in person. Home Delivery participants receive a monthly food delivery that includes both non-perishable and fresh food items.
“We mostly have to limit home delivery to people with medical reasons, because we only have so many volunteer drivers,” said Rebecca Thuro, Archway Food Bank Programs Supervisor. “We were able to do some extra deliveries during the transit strike though and also offered flexible pick-up times if people needed.”
Through the Home Delivery program, Tammy received not just food but a lifeline of connection in those monthly visits. The food was only part of the equation; it was the human interaction, the acknowledgment of her worth, and the camaraderie that really stood out to her.
“Home delivery helps a lot. They don’t just bring it directly to me, but they also unpack the food for me which is very helpful and kind. They talk with me, they’re concerned for me and sometimes they end up staying for an hour or so just chatting. I love it,” said Tammy.
Tammy rarely leaves her home and needs assistance to get into her scooter so having that connection to the volunteers who come regularly has made all the difference to her outlook on life.
“I call the volunteers my ‘arch angels’ because Archway saved my life. And I’m gonna cry because they were the only ones that took time to help, you know. They treat people with respect and dignity. They don’t look down at you. They don’t judge how you are.”
The caring demeanor of the Archway team allowed Tammy to overcome her feelings of hesitancy and discomfort about seeking help. Tammy initially found it difficult to accept the fact that she needed assistance, because she has always been the type of person that loves to give back to others. The thought of relying on others was an unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory for her.
“At first, I cried a lot because I’m the type of person that does things on my own with no help. To have someone help me, it was hard because I wasn’t used to it,” said Tammy.
Despite her initial reluctance, Tammy’s experience with the Archway Food Bank was a revelation for her, because she found the support of those who understood her struggles and treated her with dignity.
Tammy currently lives on a farm and has always loved gardening – she has about 100 corns crops which her thoughtful neighbour helps her tend to. Despite her challenges, Tammy has passionately set her sights on a new goal – to walk into Archway and donate some of the corn harvested from her garden.
Tammy devotes time to practicing walking each day to retrain her body. She is incredibly grateful for Archway, feeling compelled to give back to the organization that she wholeheartedly touts as having saved her life.
“I would be lost without the Archway Food Bank and I think I’d probably be homeless,” said Tammy.
Tammy’s story stands as a testament to the power that connection and service can have on an individual’s life.
Tammy, Home Delivery Client
“I call the volunteers my ‘arch angels’ because Archway saved my life and I’m gonna cry because they were the only ones that took time to help, you know. They treat people with respect and dignity. They don’t look down at you. They don’t judge how you are.”
Tammy’s Corn Crops
Food Bank Demand on the Rise
Food insecurity is on the rise, especially with inflation and housing costs going up substantially.
“We are helping people stay in their homes because what they can save by picking up food through the food bank, they can direct towards their housing costs,” said Rebecca.
In their annual Hunger Report, Food Banks Canada found that for the first time, there was a significant increase in the number of food bank clients who reported employment as their main source of income. This trend is being echoed at the Archway Food Bank.
“It’s mostly families that come to our food bank. Over 51% of the households are families with children and another 17% are seniors,” shared Rebecca. “These numbers also include newcomers to Canada and those with disabilities.”
In 2021, around 2,500 individuals accessed the Archway Food Bank every month. In 2023, a minimum of 4,000 individuals have accessed the Archway Food Bank each month so far.
Keeping up with this demand is difficult. Food and financial donations peak during holiday seasons leaving the rest of the year with increasingly empty shelves.
More food is being purchased than ever before as individual and corporate donations can’t keep up with the increased need. A silver lining is that with the increased purchases, they’ve been able to secure a greater wholesale discount.
“This means that the donor dollar is able to go farther in purchasing food than it ever was before,” said Rebecca.
“It’s mostly families that come to our food bank. Over 51% of the households are families with children and another 17% are seniors. These numbers also include newcomers to Canada and those with disabilities.”
Expanded Access & Options
The Food Bank offers diverse food options such as South Asian friendly hampers and halal hampers.
“It’s important to provide food that is culturally preferred and something that clients will actually be able to use,” said George Carter, Archway Food Bank Food Access Supervisor.
South Asian hampers include atta (flour), oil, sugar, lentils, chickpeas, rice, fresh produce and other pantry staples. Halal hampers include chickpeas, red lentils, haricot beans, cooking oil, sugar, rice, flour, fresh produce, and halal chicken.
The food bank used to be closed on Fridays; however, with such high demand for food, Fridays are now dedicated for halal hamper pick-ups.
“This allows us to reduce traffic on other days, ensure our shelves are properly stocked with halal items and have staff and volunteers who speak languages like Arabic so they can welcome the clients,” said Rebecca.
There were 40 households receiving halal hampers in 2021 and there are now just over 200 halal hampers given out each month.
Some of this growth can be attributed to the hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan and Syria that have arrived over the past year, many of whom are assisted by the Archway Settlement Services team.
There are currently 18 satellite locations for people to pick up food other than at the main location in historic downtown Abbotsford. These options increase the operating hours and may be more convenient for those who don’t live close to the main location. Some satellites are integrated into existing community programming like supportive housing.
“Seven Oaks Alliance Church is opening a Ukrainian satellite this year. They already operate a neighbourhood satellite and now want to open another night specifically for Ukrainians which will include translators,” shared Rebecca.
The food bank is also working on the logistics of opening up a larger location to meet the need of increased access to South Asian hampers.
“The new space has a larger parking lot and already has South Asian-specific programming, so it reduces some of the barriers to accessing and accepting help,” said Rebecca.
“Satellite locations and partnering with existing organizations allow us to meet people where they are, both physically and culturally,” said George.
While faced with escalating demand, the food bank team has still found ways to make food more accessible to anyone in need.
“Having nutritious and healthy food is a basic human right,” said Rebecca. “We are here to walk alongside those who need help and support them with all that we have.”
“It’s important to provide food that is culturally preferred and something that clients will actually be able to use.”
Food Bank staff standing infront of hampers created for Ramadan.
Want To Help?
The vast majority of the Archway Food Bank’s funding comes from donations. If you’d like to help meet the increased needs, donations are gratefully accepted.
Food Donations can also be dropped off at 33914 Essendene Ave