A month into the pandemic, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank says the number of people in need of some help is growing by the day.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs. A lot of people are scared and concerned. They have bills to pay. We are seeing approximately 65 new clients to the food bank … on a daily basis now. That’s a big increase for us,” said David Long, CEO of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. “We want them to know they’ll get food when they visit us, and it’s a respectful and safe environment.”
Because of COVID-19, the food bank has had to change the way it distributes. On the North Shore, the only time to pick up food now is on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. outside North Shore Neighbourhood House at 225 East 2nd St.
Clients are required to line up at a safe distance from one another on the sidewalk. To reduce the amount of hand contact with the food, it is now coming pre-bagged as opposed to the market model used before.
The silver lining, if it can be called that, is that donations having been coming in commensurate with the need – both financial and food donations, Long said. But he added there will always be a need for volunteers to help distribute.
Lately, the North Shore News has received reports of people going door to door soliciting cash donations for the food bank, raising questions about potential fraudsters at work because that’s not how the food bank raises funds.
“I’ve heard about it in the past. It’s incredibly sad that people are doing this. We certainly don’t go door to door,” Long said. “We either do direct mailings or targeted mailings or ask people to donate online through the website.”
On Wednesday this week Food Bank brought about 500 bags of food to the North Shore, most of which was given to people who lined up. The rest was distributed to seniors, people with mobility issues or people in quarantine with the help of North Shore Neighbourhood House volunteers.
The experience of collecting some food to take home has become a lot more stressful, said Darlene Moreau, a 65-year-old care aid who comes weekly to collect for her son who has a mental disability.
“I had to camp out here since 2:30 p.m. just so I could get food by 4 p.m.” said Moreau, who advises bringing a folding chair to rest on while you wait your turn. “It’s pretty bad.”
Moreau said she’s seeing more seniors in the lineup than usual, and also more men.
“I guess it’s a sign of the times,” she said.
Moreau said she worries about people running out of patience, the longer the COVID-19 crisis persists.
“I guess it’s in God’s hands. You have to pray that this pandemic is going to run its course,” she said.
Long said wait times are going up for virtually everything, but he added they are doing their best to keep things moving while maintaining safety.
“We know people are dealing with lineups everywhere including at grocery stores and pharmacies that they hadn't experienced before COVID-19. We ask people for their patience and understanding,” he said.