Chilliwack Salvation Army food bank coordinator Don Armstrong is hoping that this week's food drives bring in thousands of items to fill the food bank's empty shelves.

Food drive aims to restock food bank shelves

The Salvation Army food bank quietly feeds at least 3,800 Chilliwack residents every month. They're holding two food drives this week.

A fixture in the community, the Salvation Army food bank quietly feeds at least 3,800 Chilliwack residents every month, one-third of whom are children. The Sally Ann distributes food entirely free to anyone who needs it, as they have been doing for nearly three decades.

To make this possible, the non-profit is holding two food drives in the next week in light of Hunger Awareness Week.

“I see homeless people all the time. If it only means helping one person, it means you’ve done something to help the community. To see a smile on a child’s face after you give them food keeps you going,” said food bank coordinator Don Armstrong, who has spent 28 years working at Chilliwack’s Sally Ann.

On Saturday, May 4, the Sally Ann will tempt shoppers with a barbecue at downtown’s PriceMart, and encourage donations through a “Fill the Truck” campaign, where the goal will be to fill a five-tonne truck with food.

On the evening of Wednesday, May 8, hundreds of volunteers will knock on doors from Chilliwack to Sardis to Yarrow, kindly requesting food donations. The Sally Ann is hoping to collect 15 pallets of 30 boxes each; a total of 22,500 items. All the local service clubs, and many other groups such as the fire department, have formed teams.

The Sally Ann conducts three food drives annually: May, July, and December. The one next week runs concurrently with the organization’s inaugural pledge drive, because donated dollars go a longer way than donated food, explained Armstrong.

“For every dollar donated, we get $3 of value,” he said.

The Sally Ann can purchase in bulk, at deep discounts from grocery stores. And inevitably, a significant portion of donated food is expired, and can’t be used.

Apart from straight cash donations, donors can also sign up to monthly automatic donations through a pledge form.

“Everything that comes into this food bank, stays in Chilliwack,” assured Armstrong.

Last March alone, the Sally Ann food bank distributed $30,000 worth of food to 3,800 adults in the community. Of those, 453 were children under three years old.

“We make sure the kids are looked after,” said Armstrong.

That month the food bank also filled 645 hampers, which are generally boxes, for families who are especially vulnerable, and who passed an interview process. And the Sally Ann gave out $623 worth of household items, such as toothpaste. The food bank shifts 400 tonnes of food annually.

Although the soup kitchen at the Yale Road Salvation Army is bare on a Monday morning, before the end of the day, 200 hungry people will lunch there. They’ll go through all the hundreds of day-old bread buns, donated by local grocery stores, and many will return the next day needing another meal.

In Chilliwack, the Sally Ann has the only food bank registered through Food Banks B.C. This entitles it to significant purchasing benefits at grocery stores, and enables corporate donations. The title also registers the food bank under the B.C. Sharing program. Every time that a shopper pays for a bill in Chilliwack at participating grocery stores, such as Save-on-foods, they can also purchase a $2 donation to the local food bank.

In the past five years, the number of people using B.C. food banks has increased by 23 per cent. Nationwide, nearly 900,000 people turn to food banks every year; 39 per cent of those are children and youth.

The Salvation Army is still seeking volunteers for the food drive on Wednesday. Interested people can call 604-792-0001, and ask for Don Armstrong. There’s no need to have access to a vehicle to participate.