Pictou West Food Bank

Beverley Grant was busy repackaging coffee ground into smaller amounts for the Pictou West Food Bank.

A search has begun to relocate the Pictou West Food Bank.

John MacDonald, vice-chairperson of the board of directors and who co-ordinates the food bank’s operations with his wife, Debbie, said it’s becoming more evident that the food bank can’t stay where it is in the town’s municipal building.

“It’s been great they provided space for us for so many years,” he said. “They realize we need a new spot. We’re looking for a new location, whether it’s an existing building or a new building. That’s the priority for us – to find a new location. We’ll get one eventually.”

The food bank is located below the municipal building’s main floor. Its entrance and a tiny reception area is at ground level, but volunteers must navigate a short flight of stairs to the basement and a maze of hallways and rooms where food and other items are stored.

“We need better loading and unloading,” he said, while explaining that cube vans and other vehicles can not properly unload food items. He said food can be placed at risk in extreme weather when it can’t be hauled into the building in a timely fashion.

Volunteers at the food bank tend to be older, so carrying unsorted items downstairs or loading orders in bags to carry upstairs is a potential hazard.

MacDonald said the food bank is operating well and has a good supply of food items, which he said is a good thing due to increased demand.

“The numbers are up and we have a lot of new clients from the start of the year,” he said. “Some older clients are coming back. These are hard times.”

He said the client total is small compared to the Food Bank Pictou East in New Glasgow.

“We have 90 to 100 clients a month, but they have that many every day they’re open,” he said.

MacDonald said the food bank would like to make sure they are serving everyone who needs the service.

“There’s probably more people who should be coming,” he said, alluding to an uneasiness some may have to access the food bank. “If we hear about people, we encourage them to avail themselves to us. We do what we can for those with food insecurity. That’s our goal.”

Like Pictou East, Pictou West gets food from Feed Nova Scotia and local grocery stores, which provide food items if the packaging is slightly damaged. However, he said even canned goods can’t be damaged too severely.

“We have a protocol for what to look for because not every bent can can be used,” he said.

MacDonald said the Pictou West Food Bank will be largely unaffected by Feed Nova Scotia’s recent announcement that the agency will no longer conduct home food delivery across the province.

Its COVID-19 Food Box Program started in May 2020 and will stop on Aug. 15.

The program was designed as a short-term pandemic response to provide home delivery of food to people unable to visit food banks or other community programs. It provided 53,000 food boxes to 21,000 Nova Scotians in 7,700 households through 17,000 deliveries.

“That change doesn’t affect us much,” he said, while noting the food bank would prepare orders for clients when Feed Nova Scotia could not connect with them.

He said Feed Nova Scotia does provide a vital service with food van deliveries.

“We get cube van deliveries the first of the month and mid-month,” he said. “We get things like eggs, milk, bread and some canned goods. That keeps our shelves up pretty well.”

Reporter

Steve Goodwin is never without his camera and a notebook. He has been covering news and sports in Pictou County for more than four decades.