More people are hungry in Flin Flon this year, but the Lord’s Bounty Food Bank is stepping up to meet the need.
The food bank board held its annual general meeting at its new building in the former St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church on Oct. 23.
Since moving to the new building, the food bank has seen a sharp increase in activity – both in the number of people in need of food and in the number of programs and events being held at the food bank.
One key change by the food bank board after moving to the new site, limiting users to two visits a month, has led to some new trends. More people are using the food bank, but are using it less often. In total, the food bank saw 2,858 client visits in the past 12 months. That is a sharp decrease from last year, the busiest year in the food bank’s 27 year history, where 3,193 visits were made.
However, the board estimated that 522 people in Flin Flon, Creighton, Denare Beach and Cranberry Portage were fed through the food bank from Sept. 2017 to Sept. 2018, more than the 483 people estimated last year.
This year’s numbers also include between 410 and 420 seniors, adults and children from Flin Flon. Statistics released by the food bank estimate that enough food for more than 17,000 meals was distributed in the past year.
“We decreased the amount of time they can come, and our numbers are still up,” said Alison Dallas-Funk, food bank vice-chair.
The limit for visits was instituted while the new food bank location on Hiawatha Avenue was in construction, when some of the group’s food supply was split between the food bank’s new site and their former site at Burkee’s Sports Lounge.
“For a while, we were moved in here and hauling half of everything to Burkee’s because we weren’t set up to go here,” said Dennis Hydamaka, food bank distribution chairman.
“Before, people would come once a week – now they come twice a month, every other week, but our numbers are still up. If they were coming every week like they were previously, I don’t know. We probably wouldn’t have any food left,” said Dallas-Funk.
Officially opened last December, the new food bank building is nearing the end of its first year. With both a multi-purpose space and a fully functional kitchen, the food bank board has started to use the site for other activities.
“We had big, big dreams and big, big plans. I’m impressed with all of us,” said Dallas-Funk, adding that classes and information sessions were held at the food bank building in September.
“Last month was our first month when we had different people in here. We had a blood pressure clinic, then we had the public health nurse come in, our calendar is full of that. We did salsa making, salad in a jar, different classes. We’re on a roll with that.”
Another new use of the food bank site is the community garden, located next to the building. The garden was planted for the first time earlier this year, with a fall harvest yielding carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes and lettuce.
Dallas-Funk said the food bank is becoming more of a community resource than simply a place to pick up food, one of the main goals the food bank board stated when the project was in the planning stage. The group has received local and provincial grants and have not had a shortage of volunteers – only one volunteer position, a driver on Tuesday mornings, is still open.
“I think we’re more busy in general, not just with food, but with people coming in, people wanting to see, more volunteers. That’s something we really wanted. We’ve really seen an increase in new faces coming to help, which is really great,” she said.
“That was our whole concept, community involvement with everybody helping everybody. You can’t get anywhere in a small town unless everybody helps each other. We’re really proud of our little food bank to say we’re teaming up with a bunch of people and I think next year is going to be bigger and better.”
In addition to future programs, Dallas-Funk said the building provided Easter meals to people in need and plans to make and distribute more meals for people over the holiday season.
The food bank board also updated its bylaws and policies at the meeting, formalizing a set of previously informal rules. The process was required, as the food bank is considered both a registered corporation and a registered charity.
“The first policies were done probably back in the first year the food bank was open and they were done on a typewriter,” said Carol Hydamaka, food bank co-founder and volunteer.