Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pincher Creek's food bank to trial voucher program

McMan's Braden Barber and Anne Gover at MD council meeting
Chris Davis

McMan Youth Family & Community Services Association Program Supervisor Anne Gover appeared as a delegation before council for the MD of Pincher Creek at their June 9 meeting.  Gover was joined by Braden Barber, who has been hired as Community Garden Leader for the summer.  Gover spoke to council about challenges faced by The Junction Pincher Creek and Area Food Bank, which has been managed by McMan for a year this July, and to explain an upcoming experiment in dealing with the needs of those who rely upon support from the food bank.

According to Gover, the total annual budget is approximately $65,000, and The Junction has been running at a $3,000/month deficit, with the cost of maintaining the facility at 756 Kettles Street a major factor in that deficit.  McMan rents the building from Napi, the organization that formerly administrated the food bank.  Rent for the building will increase from $850 to $1,200 a month.  Adding in utilities, Gover estimates a monthly expense of $1,500.  A new location is being considered.  "We looked at the old pumping station down at the end of Main Street (just east of the entrance to the Horseshoe Pavilion parking lot), just yesterday."  Gover said if they do move they can take a number of improvements they have made to the present food bank with them.

The Junction doesn't pay for donations, "The bulk are from the Alberta Food Banks organization, most of our food comes from them, and all we have to pay for is shipping costs."

In April approximately 175 families accessed the food bank.

Last year the Town and the MD councils agreed to pitch in $1000 each to help McMan during the first year of their management of the food bank.  That first year is now ending.  For the second year the plan was to halve those commitments. "Our request today is that would you consider extending the year one commitment of $1,000 a month to year two?" asked Gover.

Gover told council that McMan was planning a pilot program based on a Woodstock, Ontario initiative which she called 'Close the Door on Hunger', also known there as 'Food For Friends'.  She explained that a food bank there ceased distributing hampers, giving their clients vouchers instead.   "They weren't paying for heat, they weren't paying for transportation, they still had to pay a bit for staff, but they bought gift cards."   Food for Friends has found this has been a better use of funds, while also offering more dignity for their clients and allowing them to shop based upon their needs.

Gover said McMan would like to try this approach on a trial basis here. The plan is to give out vouchers of the same approximate value as the cost of a hamper. That ranges from $40 - $60, covering from 1-4 people.  Clients would have to bring their canceled voucher back to The Junction to be eligible for the following month.

"We are going to try it, and we're going to report back and see how it goes, see if it reduces our operating costs, etc."

Gover said she would also like to see a donation program implemented at stores, where clerks could ask customers if they would like to donate money directly at a till, perhaps negating the need for fundraisers throughout the year.

"It's all in the preliminary stages."

"The reviews from Woodstock are so good, we'd like to try it."

Gover intends to make a similar presentation to the upcoming June 22 meeting of council for the Town of Pincher Creek.

^ Braden Barber (center) handing out seed packets to MD council, encouraging them to Grow a Row for the food bank

Gover also introduced Braden Barber to council.  His summer role as Community Garden Leader is to encourage local gardeners to donate fresh produce ('Grow A Row') and to help clients to cook and eat healthier foods.  "I think it's a great initiative," said Barber.  "With those fresh fruits and vegetables, a cooking program, to promote healthy eating, which I would say is so needed in our society today."  He will also be fundraising at the rodeo, parade, and local farmers markets.

"You can call me... and tell me to come harvest it for you. I'll do it, and deliver it to the food bank."  You can contact him at 403-627-2014 or 403-627-4265 or email .

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