Giving Food to the Hungry
Giving food to the hungry. That’s what it is all about for the Thunder Bay Food Bank (TBFB). This volunteer –run, not-for -profit organization gives vital food to supplement the diets of local people. Many times these items are a lifeline in a time of need. No one wishes to be in a situation where they are unable to feed themselves or their families on their own, but it happens and this group exists to make sure none of us have to go without one of the most basic human needs – food.
The Thunder Bay food Bank is entirely run by volunteers, approximately 50 of them, and operates on public donations of food items and money to purchase food items. Even the building they are housed in is donated, having been granted to them by Bishop Fred Colli and the Thunder Bay Catholics Diocese, which also covers the utility costs. This means that the only expense they have is to provide sundry items like cleaning supplies and garbage bags.
From September 1 to November 30 of 2014 – that’s a total of 36 operating hours - over 1,500 people were served. Of that number 632 were children under 18yrs, 855 were seniors and 875 were adults. Over 200 people were there for the first time. These numbers are common for the Thunder Bay Food Bank who is seeing more and more new patrons each month. There is no specific ‘type’ of person that comes through the doors though; some are single parents, working poor, seniors, or single income families, people on low income, or those who have stumbled on temporary hard times. Anyone can find themselves in need of help. There is no eligibility criteria to utilize TBFB services; to become a new client all you need to do is bring proof of identification and address for yourself and your children – if these items are available.
Something that makes TBFB different from other food banks is the way patrons receive their food. Instead of being handed a pre-packaged box, patrons are given an empty basket and then walk through the area to ‘shop’ for the items they would like. There is a formula for how much each person can take depending on their needs and if they have children. TBFB provides staples to their patrons; items that can be used to create meals along with the foods they are able to buy on their own with their limited budgets. The most popular items include pasta and sauces; canned fish such as salmon, tuna; canned luncheon meats; canned and powdered milk; rice; oats; sugar; soups and stews; canned vegetables and fruits; as well as coffee and teas. Two of the most requested foods are breakfast cereals, formula and baby foods which are often hard for patrons to purchase on their own, but are so important for growing children.
Although the Thunder Bay Food Bank receives some of its items from the Regional Food Distribution Association, it is important to point out that they are separate organizations. While RFDA provides food to a network of local and regional food banks, the Thunder Bay Food Bank itself provides food to the people. Donations of non-perishable food items for the TBFB can be dropped off anytime at Renco Foods in Centennial Square, the Real Canadian Superstore, and both No Frills stores. Monetary and food donations can also be brought to the TBFB on Wednesday and Saturday mornings when volunteers are sorting. In addition to funding from the United Way of Thunder Bay, there are 3 local events that take place each year which provide a great deal of support to the TBFB. These events are Empty Bowls and Caring Hearts in October, Harmony For Hunger in November, and the Thunder Bay Transit and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 966 Santa Bus Food Drive this month. From Monday, December 8th until Friday, December 12th, the public is invited to drop off dry goods for the Thunder Bay Food Bank on any bus. Santa will also be collecting in the Santa Bus at the River St. Metro grocery store between 4:00 - 9:00PM on Thursday, December 11 and Friday, December 12.
The Thunder Bay Food Bank is located at 129 East Miles Street, next to CBC Radio, and can be reached at 626-9231. The bank is open Tuesday & Friday mornings from 9:00-11:00am with the exception of the first Tuesday and Friday of each month.