Summer is typically a slower time for food banks, but the pandemic has changed the math for more than a year now. Higher demand just now has the Wellesley Food Cupboard looking for donations, particularly monetary support. Cash would help the organization purchase fresh food and grocery gift cards.
Volunteer-run, the food cupboard saw an increase in demand and community support in the early days of the pandemic, but public health guidelines have seen the group of some 20 volunteers drop to about five regulars, said committee chair Christa Gerber.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, the committee met and we felt that because the space is so small – it’s all run by volunteers – so we just didn’t know how to do it safely. We didn’t know enough about the pandemic and what was going on,” she said of evolving changes in how the Wellesley Food Cupboard operates.
Those changes included focusing on gift cards rather than collecting and distributing non-perishable food items as would usually be the case.
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“We came up with the idea of giving out gift certificates to local grocery stores, and that has been working really great. The community was so generous at the beginning of the pandemic in helping families with food insecurities. That is an expensive program to run, handing over … gift cards, but it gives families an opportunity to purchase the items most needed.”
The service, which began eight years ago operating from the founder’s garage, is currently supporting 29 adults and 60 children in the Wellesley area.
“A couple of months ago, we found that some of our families were really struggling through the winter with our heating bills, with the layoffs, some of the manufacturing shutdowns and stuff with COVID. So we came up with this pandemic perishable program – on top of being able to receive gift cards monthly, then some families come weekly, and some families come every other week,” said Gerber.
The fresh food box program also provides families with another option for supplies.
“They receive a basket or box of all the perishable items – it would be proteins, fruits and vegetables. So, milk, eggs, yogurt, some sort of a meat protein. Then they get produce items – sometimes it’s carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, that type of thing. Every week, it’s fruit, so they usually get apples and oranges or apples and bananas.
“That’s another program that’s been really well received, and our families are really appreciating it.”
The Wellesley Food Cupboard is asking for additional help through cheques made payable to Wellesley Mennonite Church, including Food Cupboard on the ‘for’ line, as well as e-transfers made to email@example.com.
Gerber said the organization is thankful for the community support up until this point, and encourages those that may benefit from the program to reach out by phone at 519-616-3663 or 519-656-9966.
“You’re not alone. There’s lots of community to support you. We’re here to support you.
“Thank you to the people who have been supporting us over the years because if it’s not for the volunteers and if it’s not for the donors, we would have closed doors, and that would be sad.”
The Wellesley Food Cupboard is located at 157 David St. across from Wellesley Mennonite Church.