SOUTH DUNDAS – Community Food Share, the local food bank, is anticipating a much larger number of people needing its services in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’ve never seen a wave of unemployment like we are seeing now,” said Jim Wilson, chair of the CFS board of directors. “We don’t know when people are going to start knocking on our door. We’re waiting for the sky to fall and we’re ready to catch it.”
“To the degree that we can be ready for something like this, I think we’re well-positioned,” he added.
To ensure that CFS will continue to be able to fulfill its mission of feeding people, Wilson said what they really need right now is money.
Normally, this is the time of year when CFS reaches out to the community through major food drives like the Fill-a-Bag Food Drive.
“Now we can’t really do that. We can’t have people going door to door to pick up food donations.”
The food bank needs to shift away from donated food items to monetary donations which will allow them to purchase the most needed items while reducing risk for staff, volunteers and clients .
“We are really going to need money to purchase food,” reiterated Wilson.
He said that the best way for people to donate is through the Community Food Share website. “It’s electronic so there’s no face to face contact, and the money gets to us very quickly,” he said.
Because this COVID-19 situation is something that everyone is facing, Wilson said the potential need is huge and he hopes that everyone who can help by donating will do so.
Last week, Jane Schoones, administrator for Community Food Share told The Leader that they have not yet seen any increased client numbers.
To this point they have been focused on increasing cleaning and sanitizing efforts while putting in place new protocols to keep clients, volunteers and staff as safe as possible.
What that means is eliminating face-to-face contact as much as possible.
The client choice model that allows clients to select their own items is no longer available.
Clients are now receiving a prepared hamper containing the appropriate amount of food for their family size.
Schoones explained that volunteers are filling and preparing those hampers which will still include the healthy choices; vegetables, dairy and fresh food items.
“Clients are no longer coming into the food bank,” said Schoones, explaining that clients will need to call ahead to book an appointment. (Morrisburg: 613-543-0065 / Winchester: 613-774-0188).
“You just leave your name and number on the answering machine and the client coordinator will call you back with the appointment details,” explained Schoones.
The orders are prepared by volunteers and at a specific time the coordinator puts the food outside for pickup. Once the coordinator is back inside the food bank the client then picks up the order from the table. “Then the table is sanitized and we do the same all over again,” said Schoones.
She added that the volunteers have been very accepting and appreciative of the necessary changes as they have evolved.
“They have been great. The support we get from them is paramount. We couldn’t do this without them, said Schoones.
Schoones and Wilson both know that it is difficult for people to go to a food bank because of the stigma. “But there’s no judgement. If you need help for your children, your family or yourself, we are here,” said Schoones.
“We’ve made a commitment that we’ll adapt to whatever is required,” said Wilson. “Our mission is to feed the hungry, and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll figure out how to do it.”
The Morrisburg and Winchester Community Food Share food bank locations both have the same hours. They are open Mondays 10 a.m. until noon, Wednesdays 7-9 p.m. and Thursdays 1-3 p.m.
If the demand is there, those hours could be increased as necessary.
The Township of North Dundas offered a matching-funds campaign, matching donations to CFS up to $7,000. A total of $20,000 was raised, $13,000 from donations in the community, and the $7,000 from North Dundas.