After last year’s B.C. Thanksgiving Food Drive, Kelowna organizer Gary Morris was making his rounds around the community, picking up extra bags of donated food that were missed or put out after the deadline for pick-up.
An army of volunteers had brought in over 43,000 pounds of non-perishable food items for the Kelowna Community Food Bank and another 15,000 for the Westside Community Food Bank as part of the province-wide campaign.
Morris was delivering another load into the Kelowna food bank when he was approached by a single father of three.
“I was loading the food and this young fellow comes over to me and says ‘I never thought this food bank was anything. I thought it was for people who are too lazy to work,'” explained Morris, recalling his conversation with the man. “He thought (the food bank) was giving away food to people living on the street. But then he told me he had lost his job and was a single parent of three kids and he really needed the food bank. He was thankful it was here. That kind of stuff makes me feel good. If I can be part of helping people, that makes life worthwhile.”
Morris and up to 1,200 volunteers will be busy on Saturday as part of the province-wide B.C. Thanksgiving Food Drive. Food donation bags have been dropped off in neighborhoods around Kelowna and West Kelowna. On Saturday they will be picked up by volunteers and delivered back to the food bank in what has become the single largest donation to the food bank each year.
Demand on the Kelowna and West Kelowna Community Food Banks continues to grow. And like the single father of three that Gary Morris ran into, many users of the food bank are regular folks who have fallen on hard times in one of the most expensive city’s in Canada to live in. On average the Kelowna Community Food Bank serves 3,000 individuals per month: One-third of those clients are children, 10 per cent are seniors and up to 20 per cent report some sort of employment income.
“Some people believe food banks exacerbate the problem by making people lazy and more dependent,” said David Purdon, the assistant executive director of the Kelowna Community Food Bank. “But the reality is most people want to better themselves and their lives and will use the food bank only for as long as they need it.”
To that end, users of the food bank don’t just show up each day looking for a handout, said Purdon. The food bank provides a one-week supply of food to its clients once every 30 days.
“We provide emergency, short term food relief for working families, starving students, seniors on fixed incomes,” added Purdon.
The B.C. Thanksgiving Food Drive is only in its fourth year in Kelowna and West Kelowna but it quickly has become critical to the food banks as they head into the fall and winter season. It is by far the biggest single donation with nearly 60,000 pounds of food combined in the one-day campaign last year.
Purdon says it’s a great fundraiser that the food bank couldn’t do without.
“Every day is a struggle for some people and this is a lifeline for this community,” said Purdon. “It is absolutely critical for us. It fills our shelves with essential food items heading into the Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas season. And every year it has grown. They are helping us raise awareness and the community is responding.”
So as an army of some 1,200 volunteers goes neighborhood to neighborhood this weekend, Gary Morris will be thinking of that father of three he ran into last year. It put the spotlight on the every day folks who use the food bank for help, maybe once, maybe once a month, until they get back on their feet.
A father of five himself, Morris says it’s important people fill the bags that have been left on their doorsteps.
“We have been asked to collect 25 per cent more food than last year so we really need people to fill those bags,” said Morris. “It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to help people and it really isn’t that much effort.”