Nanoose Community Services (NCS) is settling into a new way of helping people, without a food bank.
“The food program that replaced what began as Nanoose Community Cupboard — a traditional food bank — in 2015, no longer accepts gifts of food from donors,” said Judy Love-Eastham, NCS director of communications, after a recent day-long strategic planning session for board members, ahead of their AGM this week.
The non-profit community group was one of the first in the province to move to what they believe is the new model, summing up their vision as “neighbours helping neighbours.”
Rather than collecting the food well meaning people want to donate, they collect money towards Q-cards, “which are purchased from Quality Foods and clients then purchase just the food that they need to feed their family in that long last week before the end of the month.”
Love-Eastham said one of their inspirations is the Food for Friends group, launched in Woodstock, Ontario in 2006 and believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country.
She said of Food for Friends’ Chaplain Steve Giuliano said the program provides more in the way of “personal dignity, health and nutrition, as well as the ability (for people) to make their own choices.”
“Food cards better reflect the dietary concerns and food preparation capabilities of our clients,” said Love-Eastham.
“For example — many of the clients of NCS have only a microwave in which to cook. Pasta was a staple often provided by well-meaning donors but it is not the easiest to cook in a microwave oven.”
She gave another example of a client who “craved baked potatoes which were easily cooked in the microwave but seldom offered in his packet from the Community Cupboard. With the switch to food cards, he can now purchase potatoes and a variety of veggie toppings, providing him with a nutritious, easy to prepare meal.”
The new system also eliminates the need for a permanent building and volunteers to sort, store and pack food.
They work with clients on an individual basis, she said, giving examples of giving someone a gas card to get to a distant doctor’s appointment, or buying someone diapers.
Along with the food program, NCS provides emergency and educational assistance and community enrichment like emergency planning, she said, “And, of course, the popular and well known, Elf Project at Christmas.”
They also provide annual funds to Nanoose Bay Elementary School to help children from less advantaged families to participate in extra-cost activities and give out two bursaries to Nanoose Bay students graduating from Ballenas Secondary.
All Nanoose Bay residents are encouraged to attend the group’s Annual General Meeting this Wednesday, July 6 at 7 p.m. at Nanoose Place.
Visit nanoosecommunityservices.org for more information, including how to donate.