Penticton young professionals look to stock up food bank

As demand increases this time of year, food bank supplies dry up after slow months of donations

After a few dry months of donations, the Salvation Army’s food bank in Penticton is starting to see supplies dwindle.

That isn’t particularly new — food banks tend to see an annual decline in donations after a surge during the Christmas season prior to the new year.

“People kind of tapped out a bit afterwards. It’s tight for them, and so now spring is here and people are getting back outdoors and kind of able to give more,” said food bank manager John Rankin.

“(The supplies are) certainly going down, now, because we haven’t really had many donations since Christmastime. But the community was so generous at Christmas that we’re still pretty good right now.”

But Rankin said the donations will need to pick up to keep pace, and this year a group of young professionals is looking to add their weight to the push for more donations through the Penticton Western News sponsored JCI ValleyDrive initiative.

The Junior Chamber International group in Penticton will have volunteers at every grocery store between Summerland and Oliver on Saturday handing out lists of five items needed by the food bank.

“We got a list of 10 from the food bank, and we’ve split it into groups of five, and we’ll have volunteers handing out those lists to people coming in, letting them know that we’re just collecting food,” said ValleyDrive co-ordinator Cameron Betts.

“If they want to pick up a few items on the list, that would be greatly appreciated and will help support the food bank.”

Volunteers will be at the stores between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday to make the push. It is an initiative that was started in St. Catherines, Ont., by the local JCI chapter, and it’s being picked up for the first time locally this year.

JCI’s Kelowna and Vernon chapters will be running the same campaign in their stores.

Rankin said despite the extra donations received at Christmas time, the ValleyDrive initiative comes with good timing, as demand picks up from more locals getting back out to the food bank as the city thaws. He said he is also seeing more and more families coming in and using the food bank for the first time.

“We do need to pick it up, because it’s going to decrease quite quickly, now,” he said.

“We have probably two or three new families a day at this point. We’re getting about 10 to 15 new families a week in need.”

On top of the regular items — non-perishables like peanut butter and canned good like beans and soup — Rankin said the food bank is also pushing for things like fresh produce. That’s particularly true this time of year with local gardens and farms not producing anything until later in the year.

The ValleyDrive program is also working as a cross-promotion for the Starfish Pack program, soon entering its second year. That program sends school-aged children in families in need home with a backpack of food every Friday to be brought back empty to the school on the following Monday.

While that program is not run by the food bank, with backpacks packed by the Rotary Club with support from JCI, Betts said the ValleyDrive program will be a way to promote that program as well.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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