Food bank drive fuels teenager

Kris Suri has simplified the charitable process by showing up at his neighbours’ doorstep on the first Sunday morning of the month.

In making it easy for them to donate to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, 16-year-old Suri does the heavy lifting himself and collects an average of 100 pounds of non-perishables each month from 40 households in the area.

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The altruistic idea sprung from an annual block party held in Suri’s neighbourhood of Sunset Gardens in the Canyon Heights catchment.

“In general everyone is just really close in my neighbourhood,” he says.

Suri reached out to his friendly neighbours last spring, first with a flyer, which then evolved into a website, to get the word out about his food bank donation drive.

Within the first four months, Suri collected more than 400 pounds of food and dropped it off at GVFB headquarters, where staff were surprised.

“How did you get all this food?” Suri recalls them saying.

He was handed the food bank’s Top 10 Most Wanted list: canned fish, chicken or turkey; canned black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans; dried lentils; nuts and/or seeds; natural peanut butter; brown rice, barley and whole wheat pasta; powdered skim milk; canned vegetables; canned fruit; and hearty stews with 10 grams or more of protein.

Suri fanned the food bank wish list out to the neighbours and carried on with his regular collection cycle.

Suri was off to a strong start, collecting about 120 pounds of food a month. In the summer that number dwindled down to 60 pounds, when neighbours went on vacation.

Now Suri’s monthly stockpile of food donations is back up to a healthy weight again. He sends an email to inform neighbours of the weight of their efforts to keep them inspired.

The Grade 11 Collingwood School student, who has done smaller-scale donation drives for local non-profits in the past, saw this initiative as a no-brainer.

“I just wanted to do it because I knew everyone in the neighbourhood would support it,” says Suri. “Also food insecurity is a pretty big issue in general. You know that you’re helping out somebody.”

Suri learned the main reason why the neighbours were on board with giving back in this way, and it boils down to how little time they have.

“Because everyone is busy and they have younger families,” says Suri.

“Most people in general, they don’t have the time to make an impact on their own. So this is just a way for them to contribute within their neighbourhood.”

Through this benevolent project he has called “We The Block,” Suri hopes to learn more about social issues and get some fellow students involved to expand the donation program to the greater Edgemont area.

Suri is looking for help with social media and marketing so he can eventually franchise “We the Block” for other North Shore neighbourhoods to adopt.

As word grows and more donations roll in, Suri plans to include more organizations such as Harvest Project and Family Services of the North Shore.

“The end goal later this year would be to book a time at the Delbrook Rec Centre, and use that public space to create more awareness about my project, hopefully including a Food Bank representative as well,” says Suri.

In learning of Suri’s project, Greater Vancouver Food Bank CEO Aart Schuurman Hess says he is impressed.

“Clearly this is a very special young person, and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank is thrilled to be the recipients of this endeavour,” says Schuurman Hess.

“It is huge for us. Any time a young person can invigorate an entire group to give back to their community, it’s something that we believe has long-lasting effects – not only for the GVFB and our members, but the entire Greater Vancouver area.”

Demand for food bank services has increased this past year, with the GVFB providing assistance to more than 26,500 people weekly – 20 per cent of whom are children and 19 per cent seniors.

Close to 150 households on the North Shore access Greater Vancouver Food Bank services in any given week.

Suri’s initiative focuses on the collection of non-perishable food items and other daily essentials, instead of monetary donations.

His website is the best way to find out more about the project, updates on monthly collections, how to participate and how to volunteer.

Anyone can donate to Suri’s campaign, even if they don’t live in his neighbourhood, by simply dropping off the food at his house on the first Sunday of each month.

Suri can be reached through his email at wetheblock@mail.com, with more information available on the website at wetheblock.org.

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