The fire that heavily damaged the Community Food Sharing Association’s (CFSA) warehouse in Mount Pearl last week came as a huge blow to many in the province.
The main supplier of food donations to several food banks in the region saw up to $400,000 worth of food and supplies destroyed in the blaze, leaving many residents worried about those who rely on it for their source of food.
However, the quick recovery — thanks in large part to the acquisition of new warehouse space from the government, along with the overwhelming generosity of businesses and residents who made food and cash donations — helped ease what could have been a devastating time for food banks.
“We aren’t going to have any problems because they’ve replaced, or are going to replace, all the food before we’re due another delivery,” said Georgie Chaulker, a volunteer with the Emmaus House, a food bank located behind the Basilica of St. John the Baptist that’s run by five churches.
“It’s good that (the supply distribution interruption) was short-lived. If it had lasted longer, it certainly would have affected us greatly.”
In the few days it took for the CFSA to get up and running again, Chaulker said Emmaus House, which serves about 100 people a week, had enough supplies from Christmas donations to see them through.
“We aren’t going to have any problems because they’ve replaced, or are going to replace, all the food before we’re due another delivery." — Georgie Chaulker
While Bridges to Hope on Cookstown Road in St. John’s — the province’s largest and busiest food bank, serving 1,000 people a month — obtains only about 20 per cent of its food supply from the CFSA, manager Jody Williams said they’ve seen an impact on the number of people it serves.
“We were busier this week than normal, maybe because the smaller food banks didn’t have as much supplies,” said Williams, adding that there’s been about a 20 per cent increase in new clients. “By next week, I think things will be back to normal.”
Williams said Bridges to Hope — a non-denominational and non-geographical food bank that has a small number of staff and 40 volunteers — has its own model for obtaining food supplies and doesn’t rely on the CFSA as much as most food banks. About 80 per cent of its supplies come from its own food drives and fundraisers.
Unlike many other food banks, it has homemade bread baked daily on site, and offers meals, such as turkey soup, along with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Reiterating CFSA executive director Eg Walters’ comments made earlier this week, Williams pointed out that donations can also be made to food banks directly. Williams — who said Bridges to Hope spends up to $2,000 a month on fruits and vegetables — added that since they buy wholesale, cash donations are always best.
Meanwhile, plenty of food drives throughout the community are still going on.
The St. John’s Regional Fire Department and the St. John’s Firefighters Association, Local 1075, are asking people to “Block the Pockets” in their fire trucks this weekend in support of the CFSA.
Members of the public can drop by one of the many fire stations in St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Paradise between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday to meet firefighters, tour the stations and place a non-perishable food item in one of the fire truck pockets. The food collected will be presented to Walters on Monday at the CFSA’s new warehouse on Pippy Place.