Trina Jiggins, Salvation Army Food Bank manager, shows off some recently donated local produce, which they hope to be getting more of soon.

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Parksville Qualicum Beach food bank finding news ways

With need increasing, organizers are looking to new sources for donations

The local food bank — often frequented by working families — hopes to solve the usual summer drop-in donations.

Local grocery stores are forced to throw away large amounts of perfectly good food that is too close to its best before date to sell, said Salvation Army Food Bank manager Trina Jiggins.

But because the food bank is not selling the food, they have more flexibility. Following Food Bank Canada guidelines they can give out some, still safe, perishable food as much as two weeks after stores can sell it.

And the good news is the local stores are already charitable. She gave the example of one that donated produce to the recently closed World Parrot Refuge in Coombs.

“I have a grocery store on board to give us their meat, cheese and dairy,” she said, but isn’t ready to name them while, “we just have to cross the T’s and dot the I’s.”

A key final detail is finding the $1,500 funding, or donated items to construct a “cool bot” refrigeration system for a commercial, walk-in cooler at the French Creek facility to sort and store the donated fresh items.

“They are willing and ready to go,” she said excited about the first of what she hopes will be several deals to “re-purpose” grocery store food in the area.

The local food bank already travels to Nanaimo a couple times a week to collect donated produce from Costco, but Jiggins is looking forward to getting more local produce.

While all types of people frequent the food bank and other related local services to help them make ends meet, Jiggins said “A lot are university educated people in their 50s who are just not able to buy food because something has happened in their lives.”

Of the 464 households they helped in June, she said about half were seniors and people with some kind of mental or physical disability, but that left about half who were working-age families.

“Most of them are working but their wages just don’t pay enough and the rent is super high in this area.”

She added that “The price of food keeps going up, but disability (government assistance) hasn’t gone up in seven years.”

A $77 provincial increase has been announced for September, but critics point to a simultaneous $52 decrease in the transportation subsidy.

Jiggins said that among the families they help every month there are currently 58 children.

The food bank also provides over 1,000 school lunch packs a month to hungry children across the district.

She explained that they talk to the secretaries, “who know who the hungry kids are,” and adjust the school pack numbers monthly, “to make sure they each get a healthy meal.”

Jiggins said a recent Canada Post food drive took the edge off — food stocks were dangerously low.

She said summers are hard because “at Christmas people get money and we give them a lot of food and that sustains them until March, then we see people are way more in need.”

She said there are expenses like spring break and there are fewer donations, while the number of people in need continues to edge up.

While they work on their food re-purposing, Jiggins said people can always donate food, or even better cash, directly to them or through accounts at Thrifty Foods and Save-On-Foods

While food donations are appreciated, she said cash is best since they can then buy in bulk and get special deals from friendly grocery stores, as well buy the food they specifically need.

She also said that they often have to throw away donated food that is too old.

Along with fresh grocery store food, Jiggins said many people don’t realize the food bank can also accept fresh produce from local backyard gardeners and farms.

For more information or to donate call 250-248-8794 or stop at the food bank at 886 Wembley Road in French Creek. The food bank is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment at 250-248-8793.

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