After nearly a decade of searching for a bigger and more suitable location, the Surrey Food Bank has officially found a new home.
“It just dropped in my lap,” said Feezah Jaffer, executive director of the charity, noting the opportunity presented itself just as plans for a new location in partnership with a Guildford church hit a snag when Surrey council referred a development proposal back to staff last July.
“When that deal was coming to an end, this kind of popped up. It was my unicorn,” she said with a chuckle. “It feels amazing. We’re so excited. This is the ideal facility for us size-wise, it allows us the opportunity to expand, to do new programming, bring in more community partners, facilitate connections to our clients, and bring them in out of the elements.”
And, located near 78th Avenue and King George Boulevard, it’s close to bus service along King George.
Today, the food bank serves roughly 14,000 people monthly, with more than 40 per cent of them being children. The charity serves a diverse spectrum of clients, from working families and seniors, to those on assistance and new immigrants and refugees.
But the current Whalley location has served as a crutch in recent years as need for the food bank’s service has continued to climb. It’s been the charity’s home since the early 1990s, at 10732 City Pkwy.
“The current building is old, it’s run down, and it’s just not big enough,” said Feezah. “Our cooler and freezer capacity is not where it should be. We’ve actually had to turn down donations from industry and farms because we can’t accommodate the perishable items. The coolers in the new space will be two to three times larger.”
This is why Jaffer described the new facility as “a monumental step” in the food bank’s journey.
At roughly 23,000 square feet, the new location will be nearly three times the size of the current 8,300-square-foot Whalley facility.
And, it will mean the charity won’t have to continue to utilize an off-site storage facility in Port Kells.
“We do the distribution here in Downtown Surrey, but we have the storage facility out in Port Kells that’s 20 minutes away,” Jaffer explained. “When we need product we have to transport it. It’s taxing on our fleet, gas prices, transportation, timing, so everything under one roof our operations will be more efficient.”
Jaffer said renovations are expected to begin next January, and the charity intends to make the move next summer.
The exact address of the new location is expected to be publicly announced in 2020, but Jaffer told the Now-Leader it’s not far from Options Community Services’ facility at 13520 78th Ave.
Jaffer took over the charity in 2017 when long-time director Marilyn Herrmann retired.
In a farewell interview with the Now-Leader, Hermmann said she wished the food bank had found a new, larger home during her tenure.
“I said I would not retire until we found a new building,” Herrmann told the Now-Leader at the time. “That has been one obstacle after another and it’s been five-and-a-half years since we started to look seriously. I thought, maybe that’ll be someone else’s problem now because I’ll be too old if I wait until we get a new building…
“It’s not through lack of effort, we’re in one of the most expensive cities and we’re still the fastest growing city and with that comes high land values and competition.,” she added.
“We just are trying to do something at a time that’s almost out of our possibility.”
Herrmann said the physical building kept the group from doing a lot of things they wanted to do.
“I think this food bank will blossom once we find a different building.”