Food bank grateful for one-day blitz

Church group’s efforts replenish shelves, for now

Goldstream Food Bank volunteers Sarella Wray-Murphy

Two weeks ago, the shelves at the Goldstream Food Bank were nearly as sparse as Old Mother Hubbard’s, with just handfuls of the bare necessities to offer.

Then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints held a one-day food drive on Sept. 20 and brought in more than 10,000 pounds of food.

“It’s just an absolute blessing,” says Gayle Ireland, president of the Goldstream Food Bank Society. “It’s all the extras and nice-to-haves, especially for all the kids back in school.”

The food bank puts together about 350 hampers each month and supports over 10,000 people a year, with 32 per cent of those helped being kids from newborn to 17.

“There’s a lot of need in the Western Communities that people aren’t aware of,” says Ireland, who’s been with the food bank more than 28 years. “And the numbers are up, definitely.”

Volunteers were out in full force on Tuesday at a work party, sorting and shelving the thousands of pounds of food, all smiling and laughing.

“It makes you feel good,” says Birdie Keates, who’s been volunteering with the food bank for five years.

“Everyone who’s here wants to be here,” Ireland adds. “No one gets any kind of honorarium or pay. We don’t get paid out in food. It’s 100 per cent volunteer-run.”

The influx of abundance continued when Ed Paquette, a longtime Colwood resident and supporter of the food bank, dropped off an overflowing crate of apples from his yard, highlighting a key difference between the Goldstream Society and other food banks.

With fridges, freezers and a walk-in cooler, the Goldstream food bank has the capability to accept perishable donations at their offices on Station Ave.

“We’re very fortunate, that we can give out meat. A lot of other places don’t have the facilities we do,” says Ireland.

“It’s so bountiful and we’re so grateful,” she says of the church’s donation. “We’re blessed to have had their initiative. Our clients are going to benefit immensely from it.”

But even in the midst of the incredible windfall, the underlying need for donations is always there. Ireland hesitates to guess how long the recent influx of food will last, but figures it should take them into the Christmas season.

But perishables only last for so long and families go through food quickly. The food bank has more purchasing power than the average consumer, but they can’t afford to spend on the extras, like coffee, juice boxes or kid-friendly snacks for school. So while the shelves might be bowing under more than five tons of donated food, need is always just around the corner.

“We’re always very grateful for any non-perishables, health care, pet food. (Plus) anything that comes out of a person’s garden, last bits of produce, fruits, apples,” Ireland says.

“We have to gear up for Christmas. And coming into winter, heating costs go up, so families don’t have as much money for food.”

The food bank takes cash and food donations. For more information or to donate, call 250-474-4443, or drop by the food bank at 761 Station Ave. in the basement of the Langford Legion.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com