A chart showing the dramatic increase of Cortes Island Food Bank clients since August 2023. from 5 to 70.

Cortes Food Bank Seeks to Raise $25,000

The Cortes Island Food Bank needs more funding to meet a dramatic increase in the number of people it is serving. They had 5 clients at the end of October 2022. This October there were 70. Food Bank Treasurer Filipe Figueira said the need for food banks has been increasing throughout Canada. He estimates the Cortes Island Food Bank will need $25,000 to meet the need.

Filipe Figueira, Treasurer of the Cortes Island Food Bank – Photo by Roy L Hales

“One of my worries is that we’re publicizing that we’re serving so many clients and some clients are actually very reluctant to use the food bank. It’s taken a while to convince people that we have enough food. The common  comment I get, particularly from some seniors, ‘is I don’t want to be taking this food from other people, and I’m not literally starving.’ We always say that you don’t have to be literally starving. From our perspective, nobody should be going hungry for one or two days,” he explained.  

“I want to reassure all those people out there that we really do have the resources to help that many people.”

According to Food Banks Canada, “In March 2023, there were over 1.9 million visits to food banks in Canada, far surpassing last year’s usage, which set a record at the time.” There was a 32% increase in one year. 

Filipe Figuera: “it’s actually nearly an 80% increase since March 2019. This is across the country. When you get to Cortes, you can multiply all those economic stressors by three or four because we have  clients who have been suffering for years with precarious employment, precarious housing, and higher food costs than mainland food costs.”

He said the Food Bank used to serve about 5 clients a month.    

“When we started really promoting the food bank in August, it jumped up to 12. In September, it jumped up to 39 and then in October, it jumped up to 70. Part of that huge jump for the 70 was that we’re working with Better at Home. We have a really good alliance with them. They’re helping and introducing the food back to some of those seniors, which has been fantastic. We hope to do more projects with them in the future.”

Cortes Currents:  So you’ve gone from 5 to 70?   

Filipe Figuera: ‘Yes, it’s remarkable, but I’m not super surprised by it. We always knew that if we started scratching the surface, we’d get an idea of the real need on the island. I think the need that we’ve typically been serving over the last few years is an undercount.”

“When we compare it to Quadra Island,  I think they’re serving 30 to 40 a month and they’ve got a very established food bank with better resources than us and have had for a few years.”

“Now that we’re actually up and running as a more effective food bank, I think those are the  numbers we’re going to be hitting – 30 to 40. It’s seasonal because in the winter months, people are suffering more. They have energy bills. They don’t have employment, but it’s not as though  we’re unusual. We’re just reflecting what’s happening in the rest of the country.”  

The Cortes Food Bank used to offer food pick-up once a month. Now it is every week, alternating between Mansons and Gorge Halls.  

Filipe Figuera: “We’re doing a fundraiser right now, which is going very, very well. People can donate to that by going to our website, which is cortesfoodbank.ca. There’s a link there to a portal run by Food Banks BC.  People can donate and then they’ll get a tax receipt immediately.”

“We appreciate any donation. Actually, I feel bad that we’re asking the community to support this because we understand that the vast majority of the community is also feeling the pinch financially. So their generosity, even if it’s $20, is super welcome.”

“That’s our big fundraiser between now and the new year, because we’re going to have an uptick in clients. One of the focuses of these funds will be to allow us to buy more fresh produce. We’ve got a lot of non- perishables, but we also need some funding because a lot of our clients have got mobility issues. They often can’t get to food pickup points.  they’ve had a disability, a medical emergency, some other medical crisis, or they don’t have a vehicle.”

Cortes Currents: Do you have other needs as well? 

“There’s a bunch of things that are coming online next year.” 

“We would like to try and meet the food bank standards of excellence, which is being launched next year. This is an accreditation piece that is with Food Banks Canada. We are obliged to meet that by the end of next year.” 

“That’s going to cost a lot of money, but one of the main things that we would like in the long term, our dream, is to have a purpose built food bank. Quadra’s got one, we don’t. As we build up our food supplies, we need more storage, and that’s a challenge. Next year we really want to start thinking about where can we build some food security infrastructure. A centre that could be used by a whole bunch of similar groups, where people can come and pick up food and we can store non perishables, frozen foods and that kind of thing.” 

“We’ve got pretty big ambitions and that’s why we’ve got a big funding target.”

“One of the things that we can also use the funds for is to attract more volunteers to help the food bank. We’re going to train a pool of people with the skills that they need to be respectful, respect confidentiality and be able to deliver food. So we’re putting a pitch out there for anybody who’s got some availability,  to help us pack boxes or deliver boxes or staff the pickup points, to get in touch. We hope to get a pool of about  six, seven, eight people and then do a training session in late November so that they just really understand how.” 

“I’m really also looking for a younger pool of people because we need younger people to be able to take over the Food Bank once it’s up and running and, and really firing on all cylinders.” 

“I really want to thank everybody who’s donated in so many different ways to the food bank over the past year. Obviously, the people who’ve donated financially, that’s super helpful, but I also want to thank people like Lane 8, who’s been fantastic about delivering produce for us; Better at Home, who we’re developing partnerships with. Carrie from Sunflower Foods is cooking up some ready made soups for us that we can deliver to clients who have trouble making their own food, or don’t have the facilities to make food. We hope to do something hot school meals program as well. 

“So big thank you to all those people and to the whole community really.”

Top image credit: Screenshot taken from the BC Food Bank donation page for Cortes Island

This article was originally published on Nov 10, 2023 and reposted on Nov 17 as it will be included in this week’s Saturday Round-up broadcast.

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