Local leaders in the food banking community were in the national spotlight recently for their efforts to curb hunger and poverty.
At the Food Banks Canada conference in Charlottetown, St. Paul’s Family Resource Institute, a member of FEED NOVA SCOTIA, also received an Excellence in Food Banking Award for their innovative support of marginalized residents in Spryfield. Swinemar describes it as a proud moment for the organization. “St. Paul’s is a perfect example of the fact that many food banks in our province provide much more than food assistance,” she says. “They look at the whole picture when supporting those in their community and we’re incredibly proud to have an organization like St. Paul’s as part of our provincial network.”
The Spryfield organization has one of the largest (and certainly the longest-running) community gardens in Atlantic Canada, and they provide resource like income tax support, a literacy lending program, a parent and tot group, and cooking classes, to name just a few examples. They’re also actively involved in research surrounding food security.
The Christmas season is over but good memories linger. At St. Paul’s Family Resources Institute (FRI) we are aware that the memories are in large part a result of wonderful support that we receive and are able to pass along.
One of the largest initiatives of FRI is the Food Bank. On average, we serve 30-35 people a week at our food bank and we get to know our clients as most of them are regulars. They register by phone on Monday and Tuesday and pick up day is Wednesday. At St. Paul’s FRI, as the clients come in, they wait in our hall until their number is called. They are given snacks and coffee at our Food Bank Café as they wait.
We are aware that there are misconceptions about food banks among the general public. Most of the food comes from Feed Nova Scotia but we get substantial donations from schools, other churches and from St. Paul’s congregation. Clients can access this just once a month. Contrary to popular opinion, people cannot feed their families or themselves on what they get from the food bank. Their monthly allotment is just three days supply of food. That means that at St. Paul’s FRI, where we serve an average of 30-35 people a week, we serve upwards of 120 per month. Because they must register, they are on a Feed Nova Scotia database and they cannot access multiple food banks. This is carefully monitored.
At Christmas, things are much more hectic than they are on our regular weekly schedule. We serve over 125 families for Christmas, each one getting a large well filled hamper and a turkey. These hampers are supplemented by the donations that come in and we are able to give each recipient additional treats. Volunteers and staff spend long full days organizing the food on hand and filling the hampers. Then on Food Bank day, ALL of these people arrive and are offered drives to get their food home.
A special bonus we have at St. Paul’s FRI is our toy store. Many clients with children do not have the ability to provide them with gifts but we can. Nancy Wooden has spent months trying to get donations and her hard work paid off in the last few days before the Christmas Food Bank Day. Many of our clients are sponsored with toys from the Salvation Army but they can’t reach all of them. That’s where our Toy Store comes in to fill up those gaps. Parents who are registered are able to come to our Toy Store and make choices which suit their children.
When Christmas week is over and the clean up has occurred, both staff and volunteers are exhausted but it is a good exhaustion. Clients are happy and as they are getting drives from volunteers they have great praise for volunteers and the staff. Kristen Hollery who is the Comunity Ministry Director and Lorna Gabriel, Food Bank coordinator are responsible for overseeing this huge project.