Food banks in Calgary are helping people in need address food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keoma Duce, the manager of community engagement at the Calgary Food Bank, says anyone who is experiencing food insecurity can call the Calgary Food Bank to get emergency food hampers.
Duce said that they ask some screening questions while providing the food hampers, so that they can collect data and understand what’s happening in the community.
“We know people are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to make sure that the stress of feeding their family is not going to compound with everything they are trying to do,” said Shawna Ogston, the communications and media relations supervisor at the Calgary Food Bank.
The Calgary Food Bank has witnessed a 12 per cent increase in demand, according to Ogston.
“We responded quickly to the challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Amy Leong, the board chair of the Calgary Food Bank.
“The vision of Calgary Food Bank is a hunger-free community, and we will strive for this through not only fighting hunger, but also by addressing the root cause.”
Leong said many creative ideas surfaced from staff and volunteers that helped the Calgary Food Bank to respond to the pandemic and continue to meet the needs of clients.
“We work with schools, and provide little bags for students that are experiencing challenges at home,” said Duce.
“Our clients call, and set a time to come in and shop, and if they need anything other than food, we do our best to assist them,” said Jaccie Saltzman, office volunteer at the Veterans Food Bank of Calgary.
Saltzman described how they provide service to the first responders, and to the veterans who served in all the branches of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Every two weeks, our clients can shop for grocery items, and can get laundry facilities free of cost,” said Donna Boechler, the operations manager at the Veterans Food Bank of Calgary.
Boechler said that they have a section for dietary needs, such as gluten-free products and meal supplements, and they also have a section for cleaning supplies.
“There are a lot of things on the go, and we are going to purchase a plot of land up by Cochrane to create a veteran’s ranch,” said Allan Reid, the president of the Calgary Veterans Services Society.
Food banks are following public health guidelines as they work hard to meet the increase in demand for services during COVID-19.
“Everybody has to wear a mask when they are inside the building, and we have a team that sanitizes the touch points all over the building,” said Duce.
Leong said that necessary protocols were put in place for the safety of staff and volunteers during these challenging times.
“We saw an increase in the demand for food hampers in March, and then things levelled off, but we are seeing a little bit of an increase again in January,” said Duce.
“We have a drive-thru for clients, and they just call ahead and select a 15-minute time-slot for them to come.”
Many stores are collecting donations to support food banks in Calgary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did a lot of fundraising events in the community before the pandemic, but now we cannot do it anymore,” said Duce.
A lot of local businesses donated during the holiday season, and food banks also receive monthly contributions through their website.
“The grocery stores are also helping the Calgary Food Bank by accepting donations,” said Duce.
“Safeway had a campaign in December which was called the Joy of Giving, and they were accepting donation.”
Food banks in Calgary continue to stay focused on meeting the demands of clients while also adapting to the changing environment.