The Surrey Food Bank has launched a new pilot project for struggling seniors living in Surrey and North Delta.
Every second Wednesday afternoon seniors can avoid long and often-exhausting line-ups during a seniors-only distribution time.
When they arrive, those 60 and over are given a number and a bottle of water, but instead of being handed a prepackaged hamper, they are paired with a volunteer. They may then select only the things they need – from fresh vegetables, canned fish, meal replacement drinks and dried goods to kitchen supplies and toiletries.
Many of the items are geared specifically to seniors, with smaller packaging and low sodium options. They are even offered help carrying their bags to their car.
For local senior Barbara Tanguay, 77, the new program is a “terrific idea.” Living on her own on a fixed income, Tanguay has been using the food bank for about a year, but found standing in the long lines extremely difficult.
“They’re really giving us a good break,” she said, “I was able to get just what I needed and not have to worry about getting things that I don’t need or may go bad.”
Since the food bank already offers the Tiny Bundles program, geared for infants and toddlers, executive director Marilyn Herrmann feels this new program will help another vulnerable group.
“We aren’t here to feed them for two weeks, this is more of an emergency supplement for three or four days,” said Herrmann.
The pilot program is currently being offered to 50 seniors in one day, however the potential is 500 in one day.
Other groups, including Fraser Health, BC Housing and the Surrey Library, will also be on site, offering assistance and advice as needed.
In June, the Surrey Food Bank also collected the top prize at the annual food bank awards.
During the Food Banks Canada’s membership conference awards dinner in Charlottetown P.E.I., the Surrey organization was presented with the inaugural Excellence in Food Banking 2013 Large Size Food Bank award.
“The bottom line,” said Herrmann. “I think we do one heck of a job here … and most importantly we can only do it because of the community.”
The judging was multifaceted, taking into consideration the operational side, programs and services, numbers of clients along with how they serve some of the most vulnerable clients. Attracting, retaining and rewarding the more than 1,000 volunteers was also something that gave the Surrey Food Bank a leg up.
“We have a waiting list for community and school groups to come out and volunteer for next year,” said Herrmann.
There are 92 food banks in the province and nearly 900 nationally, all varying in size from one room to over 60,000 square feet. Surrey is currently looking to expand to a new location beyond the current 8,000-square-foot Whalley location.
Between 250 and 300 households use the Surrey Food Bank daily which translates into 11,000 people a month.
However, with all the accolades for the work that is being done, Herrmann stresses the job isn’t getting any easier and donations are always sought.
For more information on how you can help check out www.surreyfoodbank.org