The Stuart Lake Outreach Group continues to relieve local hunger.
Boxes containing several hundred dollars of nutritious groceries are handed out on the third Wednesday of each month by the volunteer group that looks after the Fort St. James Food Bank.
The boxes chockful of basic pantry staples as well as meat, fresh vegetables and more are packed and prepared at the downtown facility that was once the Anglican Church.
“It’s busy as usual,” said treasurer Holly Keyowski. “We don’t only serve this community; we serve all the surrounding communities too if they need help.”
Close to 100 people, from single parents and seniors to those living alone, attended the food bank Wednesday, July 21.
Hampers were also delivered to those who were unable to come by in person.
“I’ve been there from almost day one,” Keyowski said of the food bank. “We need it.”
The third Wednesday of each month, she said, coincides with when financial assistance or monthly income for many is running low.
The Stuart Lake Outreach Group became an organization in July 2014 and was financed through the Anglican Church until 2015, later gaining charity status.
Before the Anglican Church shut its doors lunches were provided to anyone finding themselves hungry.
“There were pews in the front row, and some groceries were donated,” Keyowski recalled.
“We just gave them what they needed from the groceries that we had, and it grew and grew, and all of the pews were filling up with groceries.”
When the church decided to close, the pews were eventually removed and a wall-to-wall grocery “warehouse” with refrigeration and freezers took shape.
The Stuart Lake Outreach Group is assisted by Food Banks BC.
“Our community supports us,” Keyowski added, noting it is a lot of work to stock the food bank and pack hampers.
Often the group does not know what is coming in by Food Banks BC. For example, cheese came in once that Keyowski said they eventually froze and slowly gave out.
During the on-start of the COVID-19 pandemic, usage of the food bank was relatively quiet as federal financial assistance such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit rolled out. However, as those supports begin to dry up, the food bank appears to be picking up.
The Tuesday and Thursday lunch program remains on hold.
Keyowski said the group rents the space from the Anglican Church, which they someday hope to purchase.
For her, the food bank is all about helping those in need and ensuring no one goes hungry, adding she had seen some individuals resort to eating out of garbage cans.
“People are opening their eyes a lot more to it.”