As the second wave of Covid-19 starts to ramp up, blanketing communities with the chilling prospect of further isolation, and retreat into a disconnected cocoon, a platoon of volunteers quietly distributed flyers (5000 in total) around their neighborhoods in Squamish. The orange flyers are recognizable to many as the herald of the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive, a province-wide initiative that helps feed thousands across BC who rely on food banks for their basic nutritional needs. This grassroots campaign, is coordinated locally by the Squamish Multifaith Association in partnership with the Squamish branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Squamish Food Bank.
Its success is dependent on a broad base of community support where everything from promotion to logistical support is donated by organizations, businesses and a company of volunteers, many who have volunteered each year since the first campaign, nine years ago. This year the need is greater than ever. Covid 19 has resulted in the demand for services increasing by 230% as many in our community battle job loss and financial hardship.
Some wondered if we could even run it this year. Would we be able to get volunteers? How safe would it be? Fortunately, the operational design requires no solicitation or knocking on doors and donations are simply left outside the door for pickup, so the risk of transmission was very low. Instead of shrinking in number, we added to our volunteer base this year, demonstrating that in these challenging times, people are yearning to come together, support each other, and serve the needs of their communities – in short to unite in service. One of the lovely aspects of this service is its suitability as a family endeavour. Each route consists of between 100 – 140 homes to deliver to and takes about two hours depending on how close the homes are to each other, and the length and gradient of driveways! Some routes are best suited to young energetic legs. A unique feature of the Squamish Food Drive is the special collection at the Sikh Temple to add a bonus collection to effort.
Collection day was Saturday September 26th and as route volunteers returned to their route to see what donations had been left outside for pickup, another team of volunteers was preparing at the foodbank for sorting, weighing and repacking of food items. Currently located at 39650 Government Road, the foodbank is in moving mode as it relocates to its new digs downtown at Under One Roof. With Covid precautions in place, all volunteers at sorting stations were masked and sanitizing sprays were available for use throughout. To maintain physical distancing, less volunteers were allowed at the foodbank than usual, which meant these volunteers had to be both fast learners and nibble as the donations rolled in in a steady stream from 10:30 a.m to 3 p.m. . Boxes of Dominoes pizza arrived at 12:30, a very welcome treat to snack on whenever there were short breaks. Tim Hortons provided coffee and muffins for the early shift.
The first part of sorting is checking for expiry dates and thanks to reminders from our friends at Mountain FM, each year we get less expired items. Expired items cannot be used and unfortunately must be discarded.
After all the effort, the final result depends on the generosity of Squamish residents. And generous they were with 760 homes contributing a total of 9435 lbs. Even accounting 3.44% expired food this left a net weight of
9110 lbs. Add to that the very generous contribution of 424lbs of food collected at the Sikh Temple for a grand total of 9534lb of usable food ready to restock the shelves of the Squamish Foodbank. Our BEST year ever! Despite the curve ball thrown at us by Covid-19, made possible by 60 route volunteers and an additional 16 volunteers for sorting and the generosity of Squamish residents.