The Lakes District Food Bank in Burns Lake celebrated on Nov. 29 its one-year anniversary in its new location.
The 788 Centre Street spot, across from the hospital hosted an open house, served snacks and acknowledged its donors by posting signed leaves on the bank’s Sharing Tree.
Much has changed since last November, namely the physical layout of the bank where some walls were removed to free up more space inside.
Renovations also include the addition of check-out and service counters, where meals are served.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays we serve hot meals while people wait for their shopping and so they can visit with people,” food bank coordinator Candice Little told Lakes District News.
A more important, but less visible change is the attitude of customers.
“This year I’ve noticed people aren’t in and out. They aren’t anxious to leave. They like to sit down and talk,” Little explained.
“[And] because of that there’s been more opportunities. For example, a paramedic did two lessons on CPR that were really well-received.”
In addition to its regular food distribution, for which it spends $8,000-$10,000 per month on groceries, the bank plans to expand its services to the community.
“We’re hoping to open a cooking program to help people be able to stretch their shopping more,” Little said.
In the spring, it plans to work with the library to hold workshops on planting and gardening.
However, the bank’s enhanced service has also seen a rise in people seeking food.
Pointing to data sheets, Little showed figures from July 2017 to June 2018 of a 23 per cent increase in customers, from 491 to 628 people.
Of those, 166 were aged under 18 years of age and 67 over 60.
“Forty one per cent of total clients are the most vulnerable,” Little said, adding that many of them represent the ‘working poor’ who have jobs but aren’t earning enough to make ends meet.
Its mobile food bank has also been responding to significant needs since it began last April and has served 61 households since then.
As Christmas approaches, the bank is preparing for its annual Spirit Drive and combines cash donations, an advent collection and a secret Santa (to provide presents to families with children).
This month the food bank will have twice as much food to provide because it has combined with the food hamper program at the mall.