By Stan Ashbee
Alberta Newspaper Group
2019 has basically shaped up to be very similar in demand as 2018’s client need for throughout the year, said Robert Van Roessel, president of the County of Forty Mile Food Bank – which has served the needs of county residents for over 20 years.
“We don’t necessarily track why things are happening. We’re fairly objective in if somebody says they need food or a hamper we just do it,” he explained, as the economy or job losses are not factored in or tracked.
Van Roessel said the food bank does operate all year long, with the exception of just at Christmas when the Joy of Giving campaign fills the void over the holidays. The Joy of Giving campaign is separate from the food bank. “We usually shut down for two weeks,” he said, but would still be open in an emergency.”
According to Van Roessel, the food bank does have cash flow needs throughout the year to operate. “Cash is very important. A lot of times there are food donations or food collection sites here and there.”
In a 2018 county food bank report, Van Roessel said, the food bank spent approximately $27,000 in hamper supplies. “Over and above our food donations that came in.”
If anyone has cash to donate, it will get put to very good use throughout the year, he noted.
At Christmas, it seems to be a time when people think about the food bank or are reminded of it, Van Roessel said. “If they had a fortunate year and would like to contribute,” the food bank would gladly accept a cash donation or otherwise.
Van Roessel added the food bank is a low-overhead organization, which is run by volunteers. “The only cash going out is for rental space for our area. Everything else is done by volunteers, so there’s no cash being spent on anything other than food bank operations.”
If anyone would like to make a donation please contact Van Roessel at 403-952-0873 or contact Delaine at the Community Resource Centre (CRC) office in Bow Island.
Here’s a look at the food bank’s 2018 report:
Presently, the organization operates out of the St. Michael’s church basement. The people we assist are called our clients. Clients either call or are referred through someone in the community. An Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) co-ordinator answers the call and gathers information from the client. Orders are received on Tuesday or Wednesday and volunteer teams (usually three people) assemble the appropriately-sized hamper made up of non-perishables and frozen food in storage. Then, a fresh food component is added to the hamper, which includes bread, milk and fruit. Clients are scheduled in for a hamper pick-up time and an FCSS staff member meets them for the pick-up. None of the volunteers or board members have any direct contact with the clients and confidentiality is a priority. Clients can use the food bank once per month.
According to the 2018 food bank report, 145 hampers were distributed throughout the community in 2018 and 156 volunteer hours were contributed. There were 48 separate clients using the food bank and 40 per cent of clients used it once only, while 90 per cent of clients used it five times or less.
There are currently 25 people on the food bank’s volunteer list grouped into different Thursday crews and spares. The board is made up of seven members from the community, some as representatives of their respective churches and some community members at large. The organization survives on local donations of cash and food. Most of the money donated is spent locally through Apple Drugs, Island Market, Back 40 Foods (Foremost) and Len’s Foods.
According to the report, the organization pays $1,200 per year to the church for room rental and utilities and has a few miscellaneous administration costs such as memberships, insurance and telephone costs. The biggest expense is the food hampers. The food bank spent approximately $24,000 on buying extra non-perishables, fresh hamper supplies and meat packing costs from donated meat. The average hamper cash cost in 2018 was $165 per hamper – composed of $99 for the fresh portion and $66 being the purchased non-perishable.
1) Having FCSS handle client intake. “We are getting more information from our clients and are now in a better position to help our more frequent clients access other government help. We will also have the resources to make sure our food bank is being used when necessary,” it was stated in the report.
2) Starting a Facebook page. “This has allowed us to reach the community more effectively. We are able to thank donors, recruit volunteers, post pictures and we even had a beef donation 18 hours after posting on Facebook. Many local groups have food bank donations as entry to events and we want to use the page to help advertise local events accepting donations on our behalf,” it was also stated in the report.
3) Information spread. “We are trying to inform donors and the community, in general, about the food bank, so they know how their donations are spent and how they can help more effectively. We are currently purchasing a sandwich board sign with food bank info we can put at collection sites throughout the year,” it was stated in the report.