It’s that time of year again where the food bank’s shelves run light and the community steps up to help stock them for the summer months.
Dig In, a one-day food drive across the region, is June 4 this year and volunteers will be at the Elmira grocery stores, Food Basics and Foodland, collecting non-perishables to keep Woolwich Community Services’ food hamper program going until their next food drive at Thanksgiving.
WCS’ director of community support, Kelly Christie, says they noticed at last year’s food drive that the initiative seems to be picking up momentum, and they received a nice selection of goods.
The two stores will be manned by the same volunteers as in past years, a group from Elliot Coach Lines at Food Basics and the Elmira Mennonite Youth Group at Foodland. All the food will stay locally to support those in need in Woolwich and northern Wellesley townships. While all non-perishable food and personal hygiene products not past their expiration date will be gladly accepted, there are some items WCS is in desperate need of.
“There’s always going to be a need locally and if everyone could just, when they can, put one of those top 10 items in the bin, even on June 4th or year-round because our need is year-round as well. So when fruit is on sale or ketchup’s on sale buy an extra one for the $4 and stick it in on the week that you can afford it and then it just all works,” Christie said.
Their top 10 most needed items are canned fruit, ketchup, mayonnaise, canned meats (chicken, turkey, ham), meal helpers/Sidekicks, jam/cheese whiz, chunky soup, coffee, flour and shampoo.
Usually they hand out a list of their top 10 most needed items or they’ll mention them to people at the grocery stores.
“Sometimes we’ll look at the flyers too and say ‘hey, jam’s on sale that week’ – that’s one of our top 10, and we do it that way, too. As I say, the volunteers are consistent with the Dig In Food Drive and people are becoming more familiar with it, so it has been a lot more successful,” Christie said.
Determining which items to put on the list is as simple as looking at the shelves to see which are empty. The WCS food bank is all out of ketchup, mayo, meal helpers, Sidekicks, jam, and cheese whiz. They have minimal left of the rest.
“We have the shopping shelves here at the food bank and then we have the storage shelves where we check the [expiration] dates and put everything in order ready to go on the shopping shelves. If the shopping shelf is empty that means I have none in stock. So it’s a quick, easy way to see what we need,” Christie said.
There are a couple other empty shelves as well, like Jell-O, cookies, and baking supplies, but she didn’t put them on the list because the others are more of a priority when it comes to making meals.
She thinks more people donate each year to the annual food drive because they’ve made themselves more visible during the event. Having volunteers at the grocery stores rather than just a poster and a donation bin helps.
“People are more aware too that there is a need for people in our community, the hard working poor who can’t make ends meet. They’re using our food hamper program not necessarily as an emergency hamper, but to get a little bit more to save money to pay a bill,” Christie explained.
She notes the food hamper program continues to be a success story because the community sees the value in it and supports them. The Dig In food drive is held across the region and is done in the spring to help food banks fill their shelves for the summer – traditionally a slower time of year for donations.
“And people really, really do appreciate it. It does make a difference in their life to come here and get the food hamper.”
Dig In runs June 4 at Food Basics and Foodland in Elmira.