Food first-but we’ll take cash too, says food bank

Central Okanagan Food Bank says national newspaper got in wrong advising donors to give cash instead of food.

Members of West Kelowna Fire Rescue with Central Okanagan Food Bank executive director Lenetta Parry and some of the 390 boxes of food and toys collected by firefighters last week.

The Central Okanagan Food Bank says despite an article in a leading national newspaper advising the public to donate cash instead of canned food to food banks, that’s not the message it wants to send to the public.

“We need food donations,” said Terri Canner, executive assistant with the food bank

While the National Post article advises the public to give money instead because of the increased buying power it provides food banks – locally every $1 in cash can buy $5 worth of food—Canner said the food bank here could not operate without food donations.

“If we were to ask for only money, we would have to be a multi-million dollar fundraising organization,” she said, citing the high cost of both food and operations. Both, she said, would make it impossible for the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank to do its job as well as it does.

This Christmas alone, the local food bank, which operates in Kelowna and in West Kelowna, will hand out 2,000 food hampers for families and individuals. Those hampers will feed several thousand more people given most go to families and couples.

While not adverse to cash donations, Canner said the food bank relies on food donations year-round and while basics like canned meats, fish and vegetables, pasta, pasta sauce and other staples are always sought, other more specialize but needed items, like baby formula and Insure, a liquid meal replacement for seniors, are often purchased by the food bank with cash it receives.

Bulk buying deals help, as does the generosity of its food retail partners.

At Christmas, seasonal donations such as turkeys, hams and chicken are sought to help make the holidays brighter for those in need.

“We try to make an extra effort to help our clients celebrate the holidays with their families,” said Canner.

For some, giving food instead of cash helps them feel better about funding the cost of administration. But the Central Okanagan Food bank says it runs a pretty lean machine.

The local food bank also relies on its volunteers. With seven full-time staff and two part-timers, its says it could not could not operate as it does without an army of 150 volunteers who give an estimated 30,000 hours of their time every year to help put food in the hands of its clients.

“We could not do what we do without the community,” said Canner.

The Central Okanagan Food Bank serves between 2,500 and 3,500 individuals per month in Kelowna and another 800 per month in West Kelowna. Each year, it hands out approximately $3.5 million worth of food, all of which is donated by individuals, businesses or groups or bough with donated money.

Last week, for example, West Kelowna Fire Rescue firefighters collected 390 boxes of food and an additional $2,626 in cash donations for the food bank during its 19th annual door-to-door food drive in the city.