At the Food Bank
Welcome to Sharing our Bounty, the first of what we anticipate will become a regular, monthly column about the Amherst food bank.
The food bank is actually run by the Amherst Food Assistance Network Association which consists of five churches and a small group of interested citizens. The participating churches are Anglican Parish of Christ Church, First Baptist Church, Holy Family, Trinity St. Stephen's United Church, and Wesleyan Church.
The AFANA has a board of directors that meets on a bi-monthly basis. Our current chairperson is Deacon Howard Gottell of Holy Family parish. The food bank has one part-time employee and is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Anyone who needs the services of the food bank is eligible. They must have a permanent address and a current Nova Scotia Health Card is required for each person using the food bank. For example if a family of four, then four health cards must be brought to show that those people actually live in that family. Everyone is registered with Feed Nova Scotia on their data base. Health cards must be presented each time someone requires assistance. It is suggested strongly that people use the food bank once a month. However, if they require food a second time in the month they receive a few items only, not a full order.
The value of a typical order for a family of four would be approximately $75 plus and $50 for a single person. Items we normally have available include cereal (hot or cold); juice, crackers, mustard, ketchup, tea, coffee or hot chocolate, Jello or pudding, Kraft Dinner, dry pasta and sauce, a variety of soups, canned brown beans, rice, sidekicks, Mr. Noodles, tuna or other canned fish, canned meat, peanut butter or jam, canned fruit, fresh milk, margarine, eggs, hamburg or hotdogs, potatoes, carrots, onions or other fresh vegetables when available, toilet paper, laundry soap, dish soap, shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste, feminine products, bread products, cookies, sweets, and school recess treats. If there are babies in the family they could receive diapers, formula, baby foods, infant cereal, cream and other items, when available.
We often have fresh fruit and salads and things like French fries, which are also handed to the clients. Pancake mix and syrup, baking supplies such as cake mix and muffin and cookie mixes are also given when available. Items which are not used as much, such as chick peas and the like, are put on a table so clients can help themselves.
While the majority of the food we distribute to clients is donated, essentials such as meat, milk, eggs and margarine are purchased each week by a dedicated group of volunteer buyers. High demand items such as peanut butter and canned vegetables also must be purchased when our shelves are depleted. These purchases alone will cost the food bank approximately $21,000 this year. The food bank also incurs additional expenses for items such as rent, wages, insurance, supplies, telephone, repairs and maintenance, and other expenses. This is why your cash donations are so vital to our continued operations.
We do enjoy tremendous support from business and industry. For example, Maritime Pride Eggs donate one carton (15 dozen eggs) per week to the food bank while selling us the remaining eggs at retail. There are many other examples of this generosity that I will highlight in future columns. Needless to say, the food bank couldn’t operate without the support of the community, our approximately 60 to 75 regular volunteers and all those who help with the fall and spring food drives.
As we celebrate the holiday season let's not forget members of our community who for various reasons may need a helping hand. And please remember that while magnified this time of year, the need for the food bank is year round.
All the best this holiday season and may you all enjoy and healthy and prosperous New Year!
Ron Robinson is a member of the Amherst Food Assistance Network board of directors.