By Margaret Houben
The Barriere and District Food Bank Society is located at 4748 Gilbert Drive, in the Barriere Industrial Park at the north end of town. Barriere resident Antoon Houben is currently the acting warehouse manager and community relations officer for the Food Bank.
In a recent interview with Houben he noted that the Food Bank serves their clients on Wednesday mornings, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Each client is entitled to one hamper per month, and in emergencies an extra hamper can be made available,” said Houben, “We service between 80 and 100 households per month in an area that stretches from McLure to Little Fort to Agate Bay, the Barriere Lakes, and Chu Chua. About 20 per cent of our clients get their hampers delivered because they are unable to pick them up.”
He tells that the local Food Bank is entirely volunteer based, and notes, “The last 18 months have been difficult, as we have lost a number of long time volunteers and their experience. In the course of a year, we have about 20 volunteers at different times. In order to operate, we need six to eight volunteers on our Wednesday sessions. At our upcoming annual general meeting in April, we will be looking for several new officers and directors. We are looking to separate the roll of board member from the roll of active volunteer, but expect that this will take a few years to achieve.”
Houben tells that over the last year, with the help of Food Banks B.C., Barriere’s Food Bank has upgraded their cold storage with two upright freezers and two upright coolers.
“This has allowed us to offer liquid milk, more eggs, and fresh produce,” said Houben, “We hope to expand the produce offerings over the next several years. In the summertime, community gardeners have been very generous in their donations of fresh garden produce that helps us to improve the quality of our hampers. This cold storage improves our ability to handle this produce safely and effectively.”
The local Food Banl gets their supplies from several sources. These include private donations (find the Barriere Food Bank box under the baked goods table at AG Foods), bulk purchases using donated funds, the National Food Share Service, and assistance from the Kamloops Food Bank.
“The Kamloops Food Bank receives donations from the many stores in the Kamloops area (especially day old bread and near end of stale date meats which they freeze, and then make available to smaller food banks such as ours,” said Houben, “This supply can vary, and currently we are facing a severe shortage of bread. By the end of January, our hampers may have no bread at all based on current supply.
“The National Food Share Service happens four to eight times a year and the products provided are totally unpredictable. For instance, we started this January with a large pallet load that included: four cases of cereal; 24 cases of granola bars; 20 cases of chocolates; three cases of cheese whiz; 45 large cans of coffee; one case of mayo; and 15 cases of poppy seed salad dressing. While these products are really welcome, shipments from the National Food Share Service seldom address our core needs.”
Houben conclude by saying, “The bulk of our supplies are purchased, usually during AG Foods’ periodic case lot sales where we will spend two to three thousand dollars per sale. This is where the funds that we raise and the donations we accept are spent.”
For more information about donating to, or volunteering with the Barriere and District Food Bank Society, please contact Antoon Houben at 250-852-8123.