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How the Archway Food Bank keeps helping local people during a global pandemic.

It should come as no surprise that this spring and summer have been especially busy for the Archway Food Bank, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Challenges and Increased Demand

Not only has demand for their services grown in new ways, but staff have been busy sourcing new suppliers when existing ones faced shortages. They’ve reconfigured distribution centres to maintain physical distancing, set up satellite services in various neighbourhoods and identified key focus areas in need of increased support, namely: local seniors, students in the Abbotsford School District and temporary foreign workers.

The Food Bank also expanded and nearly doubled delivery services to meet the needs of those unable to leave their homes due to mobility challenges, self-isolation or quarantine.

The Archway Meals on Wheels program also experienced a 65% increase in demand for delivered prepared food for seniors. With more seniors than ever unable to afford prepared food, the Food Bank answered the call to cover the cost so that seniors living below the poverty line could have access to the food they needed.

Starfish Program

At the height of the pandemic, students who relied on Starfish Packs found themselves at home without this supplementary food, and some students who’d never needed a Starfish Pack before suddenly did.

Given the evolving situation and changes in the school system, the families were provided with grocery gift cards in April while the program transitioned from weekly to monthly distribution of essential pantry food items. The Starfish Pack program fed 500 students in May and June, which was a 64% jump from previous months.

As Starfish Packs are traditionally brought to the students’ schools, the Food Bank staff were especially grateful to the Abbotsford School District for ensuring each child received their food, either by making their school available as a pick-up location or in some cases delivering right to the child’s home.

Community Support

The Archway Food Bank has been able to answer the increased demand and transition to new ways of operating thanks to a generous community. Individuals and organizations have offered their support and have enabled Archway to safely make food available while faced with food shortages and limited contact with others.

While the need for volunteers was increasing, it was apparent than many long-term volunteers were themselves vulnerable. New volunteers stepped into fill the gap and donned personal protective equipment and maintained physical distancing while sorting food and serving their neighbours.

Jess wanted to make use of her time while laid off and chose to volunteer with the food bank because it’s a tangible and direct way of helping the community. Initially, she was surprised at what she discovered! The food bank building was smaller and the volunteers within its walls were more diverse than she imagined. As a volunteer, she helped pack hampers and sorted fresh produce for distribution.

“The staff have been so sweet. The best part of volunteering has been working with such a kind group of people and feeling so useful doing the job that is so needed.”

 

Jess, a volunteer at the Archway Food Bank

Fluctuating Donations 

With the economy beginning to re-open, the Food Bank is watching to see what the “next normal” will be. Since the pandemic hit, both the fresh and non-perishable food stock has fluctuated.

The donated fresh food that the program has come to depend on has been decreasing, which has meant more purchasing. Thanks to the amazing financial response of the community and emergency government supports, staff were able to purchase close to $73K of necessary food, right when it was needed.

Another unknown is the ability to hold fundraising events that the community has rallied around. The Archway Jake Virtanen Charity Golf Tournament has been cancelled for 2020, and the Toys for Tots Christmas Breakfast is being re-imagined.

“Right now, the future feels especially unpredictable,” said Dave Murray, the Manager of the Food Bank and Philanthropy. “We are brainstorming ways to keep engaging our donors and our community, while doing our part to keep everyone safe by physically distancing.”

Here for the Hungry

The effects of this pandemic will be long-lasting for some vulnerable groups. Some jobs may never return, and government benefits will eventually end. Through it all, the Food Bank will continue to feed anyone in need and work with them to meet their personal goals for as long as they can.

“We are so grateful for the immediate care and action from our community and the support of volunteers. Without donations and volunteer time, we wouldn’t have been able to ramp up deliveries, ensure our shelves remained stocked, roll out safety protocols, process fresh food, distribute food hampers and provide culturally appropriate food,” said Murray. “Thank you to all our supporters for feeding the hungry in Abbotsford.”

“Right now, the future feels especially unpredictable. We are brainstorming ways to keep engaging our donors and our community, while doing our part to keep everyone safe by physically distancing.”

Dave Murray

Manager of the Food Bank and Philanthropy, Archway Community Services

Nick from the Archway Food Bank

Nick Johnson, Archway Food Bank Operations Supervisor.

Meghan, the Starfish Pack Program Coordinator of the Archway Food Bank

Meghan Kellington, Starfish Pack and Archway Food Bank Media Coordinator.

“The staff have been so sweet. The best part of volunteering has been working with such a kind group of people and feeling so useful doing the job that is so needed.”

Jess

Volunteer, Archway Food Bank

volunteer

Matt Loewen, Everest Program and Community Partnerships Coordinator, Archway Food Bank.

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