If the pandemic’s first wave taught the Sooke Food Bank anything, it was the lesson that they need a bigger space to run their entire operation.
“We’re a group of closets and storage containers,” said president Kim Metzger at a Sooke council meeting on Monday. “The whole logistics of food is the biggest nightmare. We would potentially have more access to food for free if we could store it somewhere. I’m not allowed one more plug in that hall.”
Metzger said they’ve had offers for two more walk-in freezers, but they don’t have enough space at their current location, at Sooke Community Hall, to imagine fitting in anything else.
She said the volunteer group uses small carts or their hands to move items, as they don’t have a pallet lift. With the thousands of pounds of food that the group moves every month and an aging group of volunteers, it looks as though the Sooke Food Bank is at a crossroads.
Coun. Al Beddows voiced his gratitude for the volunteer organization and added that they “work on a shoestring half of the time.”
Looking back, Metzger said the food bank a great year and was able to serve between 600 to 1,000 families a month during the first wave of the pandemic when they usually would have between 300 to 600 families monthly.
She added that although a portion of the food is within the community hall, a large remainder is on the other side of the Sooke River in storage.
“If the bridge was ever to come out due to an emergency, we’ve got issues,” she said.
Metzger said she’s found that due to increased demand, they need three to five months of food supply on hand at any given time versus their six weeks to two months supply they operated with before the pandemic hit.
In 2019, food bank officials spent $278,000 to serve the community. This year, it expects to hit around $310,000 by the time the food bank closes for Christmas.
Coun. Jeff Bateman said that he would be interested in considering a one-time COVID pandemic donation to the Sooke Food Bank, dependent on how much is in council’s contingency funds. The issue could be brought to the next council meeting on Dec. 14.
“It’s been one heck of a year,” Metzger said. “What started as a year where we would decide what we’d want for the future turned out to be a lesson in emergency preparedness. We found that we’re not quite prepared.”
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