The Surrey Food Bank (SFB) is welcoming clients this holiday season with a new way of doing things.
Traditionally, people coming to the food bank have needed to line up outside the building – often for extended periods and in inclement weather.
In order to bring people in from the cold, the SFB (at 10732 City Parkway) relocated food storage to an off-site building, freeing up space to bring clients and volunteers inside.
“So far it has been a major success,” said Executive Director Marilyn Herrmann, “but we are taking small steps are learning as we go.”
By relocating the food to a 31,000-sq.-ft. warehouse nearby, it also allowed the SFB to set up multiple tables where clients can choose food items they prefer and that best suit their needs.
“It is very important that our clients are treated with dignity and respect and they have the ability to choose,” Herrmann said. “Depending on what we have, our clients are now able to pick some items – fresh fruit and vegetables, cereal, juices. It provides our clients with a much nicer experience.”
Adam Faria (left), 18, who has been a volunteer for one-and-a-half years, said the new set-up is an improvement.
“People don’t have to stand outside in the rain and snow anymore,” he said. “Also, it’s easier for us volunteers to manage – we can see everything in one room. It’s much more open and organized.”
Randy Roblin, 52, who is currently receiving a disability income, said he has used the food bank on and off during the last 25 years when work was slow. He said the changes are beneficial for everyone involved.
“For my health, standing outside for an hour was really hard on me,” he said. “And I always felt sorry for the volunteers who stood there shivering trying to help us with a smile on their faces.
“The food bank, to me, is the greatest thing Surrey has going right now. This is a really appreciated change.”
Herrmann said they are working toward eventually giving clients the ability to choose every item in their hamper.
“We haven’t done it this way before, but so far it has been fabulous. We had a vision and a plan and now we are trying to make it a reality. We want to provide even more for our clients.”
The Surrey Food Bank also put on a fresh coat of paint, rearranged some rooms to create a better flow and set up office furniture which was donated from the former city hall.
Holiday giving in full swing
The Surrey Food Bank has a big fundraising goal for the 2014 holiday season.
As the second-largest food bank in B.C., which helps between 250-300 families every day, the SFB’s success is due to support from the community.
Donations and volunteers make it possible for the food bank to exist, Herrmann said.
“Our goal is to collect 500,000 pounds of food at Christmas and $500,000,” she said, noting the money collected now will help the SFB make it through most of next year.
In order to help so many Surrey residents, the food bank relies on around 40-50 volunteers every day. And the positions are in demand.
“We have a wait list for people and groups who want to come in and volunteer,” Herrmann said, “which is rare.”
Volunteering at the SFB is addictive, Faria said.
“I originally started doing community hours, but it’s such an amazing place I just kept coming back to volunteer.”
Faria said it is a great place to meet new people you wouldn’t normally get a chance to meet.
Around Christmas time it is noticeably busier, with more volunteers coming through Faria said.
“A lot of work groups – offices or banks – have their employees come in for a day.”
The SFB is in need of proteins, healthy grains, pasta and pasta sauce. Also, money is helpful to purchase fresh produce fruit, vegetables, milk and eggs.
For more information on how to volunteer or donate, or how to receive help, visit surreyfoodbank.org or call 604-581-5443.