Ponoka Food Bank fills hampers during holiday season

While there are many social gatherings happening to mark the season, organizers and participants of many events

Dean Hill

Dean Hill

While there are many social gatherings happening to mark the season, organizers and participants of many events also have those less fortunate in their minds.

The Ponoka Food Bank has been receiving much support from the community this holiday season, said Dean Hill, food bank chairman. “We’re just really blessed in this community with their support.”

Food hampers provided by the food bank provide approximately six or seven days worth of food. Each hamper is put together with an individual or family in mind and Hill feels there is a strong need in Ponoka. “We give around 40 hampers per month.”

Open every Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the organization finds a wide range of clients who need help. Some people might be in-between jobs and a hamper may be enough to bridge the gap between paychecks, he explained. Other people do work, but are paid minimum wage.

“A lot of these people are even working,” he explained.

While the food bank gets a lot of canned food, there are times they get fresh produce such as potatoes; he sees many clients will come in to see what fresh items were donated. While volunteers work to ensure the proper amount of food is provided using the Canada Food Guide, they also leverage a strong buying power for clients.

The Ponoka Food Bank will take donated money and shop for the best deals and buy in bulk, explained Hill. “We can make $20 go a lot further.”

Much of the perishable food items such as fruits, vegetables and dairy need to be used up fast, so volunteers will fill up hampers a little more with those items to ensure it does not get wasted.

Staying organized is key to a smooth-running operation. Everything that comes into the Ponoka Food Bank gets inventoried by a group of hard working volunteers, explained Hill. He praised their dedication. “My hat’s off to the ladies.”

Violet Smith, the food bank co-ordinator, works tirelessly to keep things going as they should.

“She’s the powerhouse down there,” said Hill.

Each hamper is filled with the right amount of protein and carbohydrates based on the food guide. “We’ll also have eggs as well, but it also has to be inspected.”

He said much of the support from the community shows that the food bank’s clients are valued. Hill believes the support is a statement that  “We care that they have enough to eat.”

The food bank has been around to help folks who need it for more than 20 years and Hill feels the food bank provides a valuable service to many clients who could not otherwise eat.

Hill said the group is always on the lookout for proteins such as meat, peanut butter and canned meat such as tuna fish. They receive many items such as canned fruit, canned soups, cereals and cookies.

As an indication of the size of their operation in an average month, Hill said the food bank provided 1,760 pounds of food to clients during the course of March 2013. In the same period, 38 hampers were distributed to households, benefiting 67 adults and 38 children.