Colchester lends support to food bank during pandemic challenges

TRURO – The past two years have been very trying for the Colchester Food Bank, but as is usually the case in a crisis, the community continued to respond. The Truro-based food bank saw

“There has been a steady increase since the start of the year,” said board chair Vera Faye Smith. “There was an end to the COVID benefits, and since Christmas there has been a steady increase in the price of food. Now, instead of caring about food, they care about fuel. We see new visitors almost every day.

Smith said Feed Nova Scotia statistics show that food bank use across Nova Scotia is up 7% since January, “and I think we’re seeing those numbers as well.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, including masking and social distancing, the food bank has managed to stay open for the past 24 months. Smith said adhering to COVID protocols and maintaining a cohesive work bubble has allowed the organization to continue serving its customers.

Dwayne Vidito makes butter for customers at the Colchester Food Bank as executive director Darlene De Adder looks on. Darrell Cole – Darrell Cole

“We have an incredible volunteer core group,” Smith said. “They continue to come every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since March 2020.”

The group opened up to more volunteers last November and December, but with the Omicron variant late last fall, they decided to reduce the number of volunteers in their core group. Now that the restrictions have been lifted with the end of the province’s state of emergency, they are slowly letting more customers into the building and welcoming more volunteers.

Smith said the organization has been supported throughout the pandemic by a group of special angels. Members of Immanuel Baptist Church have been working during the pandemic to make deliveries on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“People with mobility issues, without transport and, more recently, those isolated due to Omicron, have been very grateful for this service,” she said. “The Knights of Columbus and other organizations have also been very helpful in assisting us in this worthwhile effort.

Additionally, the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, through its Kane’s Kitchen, donated 50 meals a week to the food bank for distribution to its customers. These meals include a main course, a roll and a dessert.

Smith said the food bank has always been financially supported by the community, which was very important during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the support for its two fall fundraisers last year described as incredible.

“Even before the pandemic, we had great partnerships and had tremendous community support,” said chief executive Darlene De Adder. “Things are normal at the start of the year, but people have been very consistent in supporting us.”

The current shelter serves 45-50 households each day of service. That’s 140 to 150 homes every week and people come from all over Colchester County.

Colchester Food Bank Board Chair Vera Faye Smith (left) and Executive Director Darlene De Adder say the organization has had incredible community support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic 19.  Darrell Cole - Darrell Cole
Colchester Food Bank Board Chair Vera Faye Smith (left) and Executive Director Darlene De Adder say the organization has had incredible community support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic 19. Darrell Cole – Darrell Cole

“We’re noticing a lot of new families coming through the doors,” De Adder said. “We notice it almost every day. There are a lot of families who are really struggling to make ends meet. People lost their jobs during COVID and they saw the cost of important things like food, heat and gas go up more and more.

“People see what is happening in Ukraine and we still have COVID and we see the price of gas going up. It’s only going to get worse. The next few months are going to be very interesting in how it affects people.

In addition, several federal grants to alleviate food insecurity have gone through Food Banks Canada.

“These grants allowed us to supplement our regular orders with items such as school snack bags, diabetic foods, gluten-free items, diapers and wipes,” Smith said. “It’s all expensive, and customers who need it are so grateful that we’ve been able to meet those needs for the past two years.”

Food bank customers have several ongoing needs, including reusable shopping bags, cereal, canned fruit, canned milk, and canned meat.

The North Shore Clothing Bank in Tatamagouche is run by a board member and has remained open throughout the pandemic, with only two brief closures. Additionally, the food bank received funding to implement programs through its shared kitchen.

Its facilitator, Ashley Swan, is working on a grant from Community Foundations of Canada to create programs and services to meet the ongoing needs arising from the pandemic.

The Healthy Communities Initiative has identified families throughout Colchester County who are food insecure. De Adder said more than 700 meal kits have been distributed in recent months.

Each kit contains all the ingredients and recipes needed to prepare a complete family meal.

“Every step towards reducing food insecurity is a success,” said De Adder.

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