Reflecting on a year of COVID
Acknowledging that a year has passed since everything changed on March 11th, 2020 is both unpleasant and needed. While we are still grieving many changes, we’ve been given hope that the summer will be different as vaccines continue to roll out.
Since the beginning of the pandemic we became acutely aware of how much we need each other, while staying safely apart. This reality shone through for us over and over. When leaving one’s residence became a matter of life and death, we saw an increase in people accessing Food Bank programs that had a delivery option out of necessity.
Both Starfish Pack and Home Delivery saw huge increases. Thankfully, at the same time we were seeing the increase in the need for delivery, we saw an increase in online donations. The quick support of our community allowed us to pivot quickly and effectively.
We were able to reconfigure our distribution centres to maintain physical distancing, set up more satellite services in various neighbourhoods, and expand home delivery services, even offering contactless delivery as an option.
Prior to the pandemic, the home delivery program delivered food to 30 to 40 households in the community. Now a year later, “we’re sitting in the ballpark of about 113 and we’re looking to expand that to 240,” said Nick Johnson, Operations Supervisor. Reflecting back, he shared, “the need of the community just seemed like it was only highlighted during COVID-19.”
“The need of the community just seemed like it was only highlighted during COVID-19.”
– Nick Johnson
Direct Impact – Home Delivery
People like Jerry were reaching out to us. He lost his job because of COVID in March and was shut in due to extreme health considerations and he exhausted all of his saving. The impact of having food delivered in Jerry’s words: “Without this program I would not have had any food or hope. Everyone has been so kind and compassionate.” The last year gave us time to see how beneficial home delivery is for many seniors. In December we shared Mary-Margarets story, and how beneficial home delivery and fresh food has made in her life. Watch video here. Not only is she saving the $12 taxi ride, but she’s giving her body the time it needs to heal.
“Without this program I would not have had any food or hope. Everyone has been so kind and compassionate.”
– Jerry (Home Delivery Recipient)
Direct Impact Starfish Pack
“Most of our extra money is spent on our family’s multiple medical issues. So the kids rarely get treats. Our food budget is extremely strict and without the starfish backpack program I know there would be times the kids would not eat lunches etc. Seeing them smile as they open up the backpacks each week to food they know is theirs always puts a smile on my face. It’s like Christmas morning to them every week shouting to one another excitedly what they got. Then making trades to one another based on who likes what. We can’t thank you enough. You have no idea the impact the starfish program has had on our family alone…I can only imagine how much of an impact it has had on the community. Thank you so much!” – Mom
“Our food budget is extremely strict and without the starfish backpack program I know there would be times the kids would not eat lunches etc.”
– Starfish Mom
Christmas & Fundraising
As people became used to the restrictions and comfortable with the pick-up conditions, the in person pick ups increased. November to December, had more people accessing food than in previous years.
In fact, over the holidays, we served the 3,200 people – which was an increase from the previous years. Sadly, the large fundraiser that supports these holiday efforts – Toys for Tots Drive Thru, was cancelled 3 days before the event. Thankfully, the community really rallied around us, and made away for us to continue the holiday efforts to distribute food and gifts to children and their families.
Adapting to Restrictions – Safe Distribution
To keep staff, volunteers and guests safe throughout the pandemic, staff have been serving guests outside. Food is brought to guests outside rather than having them come directly into the Food Bank. However, this created a new obstacle as people needed to wait outside in the elements while they waited for their turn to have their food orders taken. To make the wait more comfortable, a ticket number system was put into place so people had the option of waiting inside a vehicle.
For those without a vehicle, waiting for service outside can be very wet and cold during winter. Thankfully, we qualified and used funding to buy umbrellas, outdoor heaters, and gazebo-style tents to keep guests out of the elements while waiting for their turn.
We look forward to getting back to allowing guests back in the building with the roll-out of vaccinations. Having choice between food options and giving the ability for guests to shop for themselves is a dignity we value greatly. While we continue to follow provincial health orders, we are regularly thinking of ways to increase access to food in a safe ways for all.