Myths about the Saskatoon Food Bank
Since we're moving in almost next door, and because it's Hunger Awareness week, we were invited by Rachel from the Saskatoon Food Bank for a tour of their operation. We were pretty pumped to go, only one of the three of us had ever had an insiders view of what goes on at the Food Bank and it had been a few years even for her. We were anxious to learn more, in an effort to see how we might be able to help out at some point. Our new neighbourhood has a diverse and amazing personality and anything we can do to learn more about it we're always down for.
The warehouse area that collects, sorts and bundles the food to be handed out is the picture of organization with labelled wooden boxes containing the groceries that are sorted and ready to go out, a large walk in cooler and a forklift for rearranging the large boxes once they are full. Rachel herself is warm and friendly, as are the volunteers we meet along the way. There is an air of comfort and lightness amongst the staff and volunteers and I think this might actually be a nice way to spend an afternoon here and there. Rachel tells us there are several volunteers that are here 5 days a week, they enjoy being part of a group and the interaction. Newcomers often volunteer to help improve their communication skills and make new friends.
I'm impressed by Rachel's transparency. The facts she gives us are not given to make us feel depressed or shocked (although there was at least one time for each of us that we were dumbfounded by some new peice of information we had no idea about). There is a poster on the wall that says "There are no dumb questions" and Rachel answered all of ours, often thanking us for asking for more information. Once we left the sorting warehouse and took a seat around the table in her office I didn't feel guilty for never having volunteered at the Food Bank before, or overwhelmed by the amount of people needing assistance. I felt motivated. We couldn't wait to share ideas with Rachel about how The Local Kitchen could be of service to the Food Bank in the future.
While we were there a few of the things we learned shocked us, not just the information but also some of the misconceptions we had. Here are a few truths behind the myths.
Saskatoon doesn't have problem with food security.
Approx. 21,000 people PER MONTH access the Food Bank in Saskatoon. This translates into the Food Bank handing out over 5 tons of food per day.
The Saskatoon Food Bank receives Government assistance.
The Food Bank operates relies entirely on donations and private funds from local businesses. Some of their employees are participants in work programs funded by the government, however employee wages and all the other moving parts involved in keeping this operation going depend on generous supporters.
The Food Bank only needs donations of food or money.
Detached from the actual Food Bank building there is a smaller building where clients can get a bag of clothing for $2. We were shocked to hear that they also accept donations of open toilteries. Most of the shampoos and body washes, etc get poured into smaller containers to be distributed so it doesn't matter if it is donated already open. So next time you try a new shampoo that you don't like- drop it off! It might work perfectly fine for somebody else.
The Food Bank also needs donations of time, but not just in the areas you may think. Above the food distribution center are classrooms where adult students can prepare to earn their GED, receive tutoring and other classes such as language assistance. There are also accountants assisting with income tax returns and others helping track down replacement identification. Helping people who are struggling doesn't stop with providing them food for that week. The Food Bank is also trying to provide the skills individuals need to improve the situation they're currently in.
The Food Bank doesn't accept garden produce
Rachel let us know that they're happy to receive all garden produce! It doesn't even have to be washed, they'll scrub them up and get them out to people who need them. So if you have a bumper crop of cucumbers bring them to The Food Bank! Even if you don't have a ton of excess, a solitary eggplant is more than welcome.
My hope in writing about our visit to The Food Center is that it will eliminate some of the mystery without having to do a tour to learn more! I hope this is will inspire you to think outside the box on how to give back in our lovely city.