The need for the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank continues to increase.
“We have over 300 families that are registered for our food bank now,” said Matthew Campbell, director for the Cloverdale Community Kitchen (CCK) and the food bank. “It’s pretty crazy to go from zero to 300 in just a few months.”
He said out of those 300 registered families, about 200 visit the food bank each week.
Campbell ties the “crazy” increase in numbers to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the two days the food bank is open, he said the lineup lasts more than an hour.
“When we open up, the lineup goes all the way down the side of the building and around the fence.”
When the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank first opened in March, Campbell said there were only a sparse amount of families using it. Now the need is constant.
“It’s people all the time.”
The CCK has added five shipping containers to the parking lot behind the Pacific Community Church and added a massive tented area stretched up and between two shipping canisters.
“We still want to do everything outside because of COVID,” said Campbell. “This is just a temporary measure to allow us to continue to serve people in a safe way outside and not get soaked in the rain. When COVID is over, we’ll go back inside.”
Campbell thankfully said the surge in need was also coupled with a surge in volunteers.
“It’s great the way the community has come out and wanted to support this, to help their neighbours and people in need,” he noted. “We have lots and lots of people that have stepped up to do the volunteering.”
Campbell said the food bank is getting enough perishable foods and enough frozen foods each week, but they are in desperate need of more non-perishable items such as canned goods, pasta, and rice.
“We’re collecting a lot of frozen goods from companies that can’t give it to other places because (others) just don’t have the space,” Campbell explained. “Then we’re able to give it out here…. We’re really moving a lot of frozen foods to people in need.”
As the food bank’s numbers increased, Campbell was forced to reach out to more suppliers in an effort to get more food. That in turn forced him to buy two 40-foot refrigerated shipping containers, or reefers.
The reefers provided the FVRFB with much-needed frozen storage space, allowing them to give out more meat and other frozen foods than they otherwise could have handed out.
“With our two freezer units (reefers), we have, perhaps, the most amount of freezer storage space for a food bank in the Lower Mainland.”
Campbell said the reefers are only temporary as he expects demand to drop after the pandemic is over.
But for now, Campbell is thinking about opening on a third day during the week in order to fill the need.
“We just need to make sure we have enough volunteers,” said Campbell.
The Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank is open Mondays 5 to 6:30 p.m. and Thursdays 10 to 11:30 a.m.
People can sign up for the food bank at the food bank during opening hours. Campbell said, “Please bring photo ID, proof of address, and proof of income, if you wish to register.”
The Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank is located at 5337 180 Street in Cloverdale.