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Cupboards are bare at Nelson food bank

Salvation Army food bank co-ordinator Dave Sprague is looking for community groups willing to hold food drives to help restock the non-perishable food items that usually fill the shelves at the local food bank. - Sam Van Schie photo
Salvation Army food bank co-ordinator Dave Sprague is looking for community groups willing to hold food drives to help restock the non-perishable food items that usually fill the shelves at the local food bank.
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

Nelson's Salvation Army food bank is in desperate need of more donations.

This week the downtown food bank had to close its doors because it didn't have enough non-perishables to put together the bundles of groceries it would normally hand out.

Major Yvonne Borrows said demand for food is out pacing donations and there's no money left in the annual budget to restock the shelves.

"The demand has been unexpectedly high for the food bank," Borrows said, noting the food bank typically provides food to 400 families per month, but by three weeks into November it has already passed that amount. In September the food bank gave out more then 500 grocery bundles.

Each bundle includes enough food to last a week, and includes a mix of canned vegetables, soups, beans or tuna for protein and some pasta or grains.

Salvation Army food co-ordinator Dave Sprague said the supply of pastas and hearty soups are particularly low, but everything is needed.

"There's a lot of miscellaneous items that come in through food drives, that help us add some variety to the groceries we hand out, and there's none of that right now," Sprague said, standing in the food bank room in the lower level of the Salvation Army building.

The food bank is expecting a large donation from Wholesale Club on Monday, which would allow it to reopen its doors. In the meantime, staff have been directing people to the city's other food bank, The Food Cupboard.

Anna Kirkpatrick at The Food Cupboard said her organization hasn't experienced the same shortage in supplies. It serves more than 1,000 people per month, and Kirkpatrick said she The Food Cupboard is prepared to handle the temporary increase in visits that could result from the Salvation Army food bank closure.

"We've actually been really fortunate, this past month was amazing for local community donations," Kirkpatrick said. "Still, there's always a need for more donations. Food comes in and it goes out right away."

The Salvation Army is currently trying to drum up more food donations by asking community groups to hold food drives and providing donation bins to local businesses that request them.

Burrows said being in a smaller city means the food bank is more dependent on community donations.

"In a big city there's food distribution warehouses and other sources for large donations, and we just don't have that here," she said, noting there are grocery stores in town that donate food or offer discounts, but nothing on the scale of what food banks in larger cites get.

The Salvation Army has started its annual Christmas kettles out and recently did a mail out to request donations. But Borrows said usually Christmas fundraising is the foundation for the next year's budget.

"It's worrying, what's going to next year's budget if we're already using it to get through the rest of this year," she said.

The budget for the food bank is separate from the Salvation Army's other programs, like Christmas hampers and hot breakfasts served four days per week. Those programs are still being offered while the food bank is closed.

Donations for the Salvation Army food bank can be dropped off at the Salvation Army thrift store at 601 Vernon Street (the food bank is downstairs in the same building) or in the collection bin at Save On Foods and other businesses throughout the city. Cash can also be donated through at the Christmas kettles or dropped off at the Salvation Army thrift store.

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