Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tour the new Junction Food Bank facility in Pincher Creek

Christian Davis

In early January. with the help of many volunteers, The Junction Pincher Creek and Area Food Bank relocated from Kettles Street to the former RCMP building at 659 Main Street, Pincher Creek.  Last Thursday I was given a tour of the new facility, which is up and running but is still a work in progress.  A $5000 contribution from Pincher Creek Family and Community Support Services will help with new signage and a facelift to the front of the building.

McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association Supervisor Anne Gover and Food Bank Coordinator Susan Kuftinoff showed me the facility and crunched some numbers as well.  Between January 1, 2016 and February 11 the food bank served 189 families, including 450 individuals, 205 of which were children under the age of 17.  A total of 540 families are registered.  The clientele includes single mothers and fathers, the unemployed, and the working poor.

At approximately 8000 square feet the new facility is approximately 8 times larger than the Kettles Street location, which in turn was an improvement over the cramped quarters of its location prior to that at the Napi Friendship Association facility.

reception area
On the main floor there is a large reception area, several storage rooms (including former cells) offices, and a much improved loading area.  The loading bay at the back of the building means boxes of foodstuffs will no longer need to be hand carried from the truck into the facility.  Pallets can now be moved entire using a pallet jack, a tremendous boon to the volunteers who perform the work, many of whom are over 50 years old.  The loading bay can hold the (average) ten pallets a week The Junction receives.  Each loaded pallet costs $50, including shipping.

loading dock and upper deck
Community Futures still has offices upstairs.  A larger space upstairs is currently vacant and still under renovation.  McMan is looking for a mission-aligned entity to rent that space.  Another smaller room may be used for storage, another office, or may be removed to make the hallway larger in the future.  A sizable second floor deck out back may become a small garden allowing for in-house production of fresh produce, tying in with The Junction's ongoing "Grow A Row" initiative.

above and below - vacant space upstairs

The new location is in close proximity to Pincher Creek's proposed affordable housing area.

McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association is a not-for-profit social service agency that opened its first program in 1975. McMan took over the Pincher Creek food bank service mid-2014.  McMan also provides various other supportive services in the area, many of which precede their involvement with the food bank, which found itself in dire straits when Napi (who managed it from 2010 until 2014) could no longer carry the financial and staffing burdens involved.

McMan Program Manager Jerrold Visser spoke with me via phone from his Lethbridge office.  On February 2, 2016 the McMan board met and approved long term support for The Junction and the food bank.  "We think we can make it a viable operation by having the shared space above The Junction, so that can help with the costs we incur with the food bank."  According to Visser that's a new thing for McMan.  "We have never undergone a shared space model or a food bank before, so this is brand new to us."

"The Junction is the whole building, and the concept of having a junction is having other mission-aligned non-profit agencies under one roof so we can share resources and share space, and have kind of a one stop shop for our clients."

The Junction also partners with the What Goes Around, Comes Around second hand store on Kettles Street (located in the former library building across from the Credit Union).  The store takes and sells donated items that aren't needed or appropriate for food hampers and gives most of the proceeds back.

loading bay
According to an Alberta Food Banks press release issued last July, "Almost 850,000 Canadians turn to food banks in an average month and of these, over 36% are children. In Alberta the percentage of children served is 43%. In 2014, nearly half of the food banks in Alberta reported an increase in usage over the previous year."

"There are an estimated 115 food banks across Alberta."

From an Alberta Food Banks press release issued last December: "Food bank usage was up marginally across Canada this year, but the picture in Alberta was a stark contrast, with an increase of more than 23% over 2014. According to national HungerCount statistics released today in Ottawa, Alberta experienced the highest jump nationally with a record 67,443 people accessing a food bank during the month of March. The national increase in food bank use was just 1.3%."

"One-third of those using food banks in Alberta report they are working - that is more than two times the national average. What type of income someone is making matters a great deal."

Kuftinoff, Gover, and Visser all gave the same answer when asked what the food bank needs the most.  "Volunteers."  That includes volunteers for the day to day distribution efforts and for the upcoming Pincher Creek Pro Rodeo.  Running the rodeo concession for three days was a major source of income last year, and is anticipated to be so again this year, and committed volunteers are needed for that initiative.

Need a hamper, willing to volunteer, or want to book a tour?

Hours for hamper distribution in Pincher Creek are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 4 pm.

The office is open from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Thursday (closed at lunch). 

If you or your club or team would like a tour of The Junction, they are scheduling "Treats and Tours" most Thursday mornings from 10 until 11. 

Call Sue Kuftinoff at 627-4265 for information or to reserve a tour.  That number will change as of March 1 to 403-627-2014.

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