The 100 Mile Food Bank has launched a drive-through hamper distribution program.
The new program, which runs twice a month on Tuesdays, will allow the food bank’s roughly 120 regular clients to simply drive up, show their ID and receive their food without having to leave their vehicles, said Amber Summerhayes, the food bank’s grant coordinator.
“We got (the clients) in the system and that tells us what size box and they can give us any new details. Then they can stay in the vehicles while we have runners who will go into the building and collect their hamper, bread, milk and eggs and load them into their vehicle,” Summerhayes said. “It started as a COVID thing because normally we have lineups and everyone has to try and stay apart, but it’s also really cold in the winter. So even after COVID, this is a great program because they can stay warm.”
Four of the runners in the new program are Peter Skene Ogden Secondary students. In exchange for high school credits, the students will be volunteering with the food bank for the rest of the school year, Summerhayes said.
Serina Kary, in Grade 11, and Tristine Jones, in Grade 12, chose to volunteer at the food bank on a recommendation from their schoolmate Hunter O’Conner. Kary said that it seemed like a good way to help the community while getting the credits she needs to graduate.
On the first day of the program this week, the food bank was doing brisk business with a steady stream of cars driving through. Both girls said they were enjoying the work and liked the new drive-through format.
“It’s good, we’re not cold and we’re always moving. We’re always doing something,” Kary said. Jones added they were given some “awesome jackets” that helps keep them warm. Masks are also mandatory as per COVID-19 protocols.
Kary said the regular volunteers are very friendly and funny and really make them feel welcome. Every one is very open, she added, and encourages her to be the same.
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“They’ll tease you. When we were sorting produce and everything they’ll say ‘Hey you want to smell this?’” Jones laughed. “Lots of nice people.”
Both students intend to volunteer for as long as they can at the food bank and will be spending their first and third Tuesdays of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. distributing food.
The program is one of a few new initiatives at the food bank this year. Summerhayes said that while 2020 was a bit of a rough go, it gave them time to put things in place for the future. The food bank also introduced another new program where workers pre-packaged bags of produce for clients throughout the week between hamper days. While it was a COVID measure, Summerhayes said it’s proven to be a wonderful way to distribute food more fairly and is something they intend to adopt permanently.
The Food Bank has also applied for grants to increase its capacity and Summerhayes said it has succeeded in getting the money to install a new walk-in freezer. This will be a game-changer for them, she said, as they’ve previously had to turn down extra food donations because they didn’t have enough freezer space for everything. Summerhayes said this new unit will be installed this month.
“We’re here for support. It doesn’t have to be every day or all the time if you just need something, you can take it.”