The Chemainus Harvest House Society Food Bank is going to extraordinary measures to continue meeting the needs of its clients.
It’s “business as usual,” says acting chair Jan Aikman in this time of the COVID-19 crisis, with some notable exceptions. “We are, of course, doing things differently because we have a protocol to follow,” she added.
It’s been a tough time for other food banks in the region. The Comox Valley Food Bank closed for a while to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19 but has since reopened and the Cowichan Valley Basket Society in Duncan shut down temporarily due to a possible exposure at its facility, reopening on a limited basis.
The Chemainus Harvest House has stayed open since the crisis first hit and remains committed to staying that way, with fewer volunteers on site and keeping social distancing while sorting food and maintaining a precise method outside the Chemainus United Church on distribution days for clients to pick up food.
It’s all been working very well.
Clients have noticed that X does indeed mark the spot in the lineup outside to keep people six feet apart, with markings on the pavement.
“We’ve got Xs everywhere,” said Aikman. “I have to say our clients have been phenomenal through all of it. They’re so happy to see us still providing.”
While Harvest House volunteers continue to do their work, the community has been exceptional in offering any assistance it can.
Martin Barnett of Seraphina’s Oven dropped off 45 fresh loaves of Farmhouse brown bread last Thursday to give to clients and the support from donations continues to be strong.
The best way for people to help is by purchasing the $19.95 bags available at 49th Parallel Grocery for distribution or simply donating money rather than actual grocery items.
“We have to leave it for 48 hours before we can put it on our shelves or utilize it,” explained Aikman of the latter option’s drawbacks.
Donations can be made online through the www.canadahelps.org website where six dollars of food can be bought for each dollar donated.
People going to the website can search for Chemainus Harvest House Food Bank. Tax receipts will be issued for donations above $20.
The 49th Parallel bags have been a great means to get the job done.
“We usually give the store the items we currently need,” Aikman indicated. “They put those in the bag as best as they can. We change them up quite often. We pick them up and we deal with them on Thursdays.”
There’s been a record amount of donations each week through the purchasing of the 49th bags. The 49th Parallel Grocery staff is compliant with the COVID-19 safety procedures and is a big help in receiving donations in the safest way.
An amazing total of 329 pounds of food was received from the 49th brown bags last Thursday.
With so many people now out of work, there’s been a slight increase in demand from the public, but it differs from week to week, Aikman said.
“Last Friday, I signed on two new people, last Monday two new people. If people need us, that’s what we’re there for.
“I know some people are really hurting right now so we need to be there for them.”
The food bank serves the public Fridays in Chemainus from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and Mondays at the Warmland Church in Crofton from 9:30-10:30 a.m.
The social distancing has required an adjustment that’s a product of the times, but it’s not insurmountable.
“You have to work around it,” said Aikman. “It all works out in the end.
“Our clients are getting what they need so it’s all good.”
It’s been double duty for some Harvest House volunteers, joining Legion 191 members and others to assist with online delivery orders at 49th.
“We’ve all been showing up at 49th to shop for people who can’t get in as well,” confirmed Aikman.