Bambi Smith and youngest daughter Isabella with some of the donated toys that can be purchased at Saturday’s Food for Gifts sale at the Cannery on Fairview Road. Customers can buy new or gently used items for a donation of a non-perishable food item.

Tough memories generate Food for Gifts Penticton

As a way of giving back, to help make the lives of others a little easier, Penticton woman started a program called Food for Gifts.

Been there, done that.

Bambi Smith remembers the tough times all too well, especially living as a single mom trying to raise her young daughter with not enough money to pay for the necessities of life.

She vividly recalls how important it was to have the support of the community food bank to put meals on the table and clothes on their backs.

Now, at age 38, things have turned around for Smith who is married with three other children and living happily in Penticton.

As a way of giving back, to help make the lives of others a little easier, she has started a program called Food for Gifts Penticton.

This Saturday at Unit 201 of the Cannery (1475 Fairview Rd.) people will be able to purchase a variety of new or gently used goods using food bank donations as currency.

“ When I was younger I used the food bank a lot and I just figured that we’ve got more than  enough to go around and I just wanted to share that with other people,” said Smith, who moved to Penticton a year ago from Kamloops.

“It was really important, they helped me with Christmas gifts at Christmas time when I was broke and helped me to never fall short at Christmas so my daughter still believed (in the Christmas spirit).

“If they had not been there I don’t know what would have happened to us.

“We couldn’t afford milk or diapers or anything.

“I probably would have tried to get other people to help me in some way but my family wasn’t really well off so they (food banks) were a really big support for me.”

Smith got the idea of using non-perishable food items for currency from a friend who began holding similar sales a couple of years ago in Kelowna.

“We were always donating things to her and when I came to Penticton I just decided I’d like to spread that here as well,” she said.

“Basically you just hold a big garage sale and people come with food bank donations and purchase things with those and we can just help stock the shelves of the community food bank.”

Along with her charitable work, Smith currently operates a home day-care service.

Donations to the sale from the public were initially slow, however, the organizer said things picked up considerably in recent weeks. She credits the help of the CrossFit Penticton gym and her Facebook page for getting word out to people.

In addition to food, buyers can also use product like “baby necessities” to buy something they like.

Any cash donations go directly to the food bank.

The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.