By Justin Seward
The Medicine Hat and District Food bank had noticed the immediate impact through the pandemic and into the holiday season of not having the 28 volunteers helping out with distributing food to those in need.
“We were running an organization that normally takes 28 people a day to run, with six of us,” said Celina Symmonds, the Food Bank’s executive director.
“I was doing front line because there was no other choice. We just all had to kind of drop the other things we were doing and make sure people got fed. It was a bit crazy for sure-it still is. We still can’t have volunteers at this point.”
Symmonds says the Food Bank was lucky enough to have some people come in at night time to do some duties.
“The British Army came in and supported us by doing hampers, and then one of our board members actually got together a crew of people and then we have two ladies who come in on their own at night and help with just a few things,” said Symmonds.
She describes running the Food Bank through the pandemic as “pretty dramatic” for some of the team.
“I think our priority from the beginning was just to make sure people got fed,” she said.
“We were lucky that we had partners and people that supported us, that helped us in the places that we needed help and I think for our team, the most devastating part was sending our volunteers home.”
Symmonds broke down the Food Bank in to two components including one being able to provide food to people and secondly provides a purpose for others who are retired or cannot work anymore and want to give back to the community.
Symmonds says the Food Bank was able to get to everyone who called during the Christmas season.
The Food Bank feels fortunate to have a community with support.
“For the most part, we weren’t overly worried about donations because when we needed something, we went to our community and they supported us,” said Symmonds.
“Some of the hard things were things like the grocery chains being unable to get food. At the beginning of the pandemic, of course everybody panicked shopped and went out. March is normally when we would order food and we were having hard time getting anything in-like getting enough food from the supply chain.”
The Food Bank saw a spike back in March to 100 families a day and when the CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) became available, the Food Bank had seen a decline and were back at normal numbers.
“Since then, we’ve had times of the year where it’s spiked,” she said.
“For example, it spiked significantly just before Christmas and it spiked just when we noticed that if there was any uncertainty with the supports that were coming from the government, then our numbers spiked,” she said.
The Food Bank was able to get what Symmonds called “difficult stuff,” from food drives which were items such as canned soup.
Medicine Hat realtor Torrey Mattson realized last month restaurants were going to close down and came up with an opportunity where citizens could donate money to local restaurants to in turn make meals for the Food Bank.
“It kept the restaurant chains open while providing food for the Food Bank,” said Symmonds.
People who need food will have to come in the door wearing a mask and hamper will be ready for them.
There is a delivery options for those people who are isolated as well.