Q&A with Roxann Dreger, Board Chair, Central Peace Food Bank Society

Photo shows members of the Central Peace Foodbank Society board. FROM LEFT: Chris Potrebenko, vice chair; Janet Sinkwich, member; Roxann Dreger, chair; and Cassie Dandy, secretary/treasurer. The rest of the board are Jo Chelick, Shantel Merritt and Caroline Donavan. // File Photo

What are your hours, and what types of food do you have available?
For the comfort of our patrons we are currently by appointment only. We request that patrons reach out to us by e-mail or telephone to book in. As we are entirely volunteer-run, this ensures someone is available to assist upon arrival. The Central Peace Food Bank carries a variety of items, including canned and dried goods, non-perishable pantry staples, a variety of frozen meats, baked goods, produce, and a small selection of fresh produce and dairy. As we are donation-based, our offerings often differ based on what has been donated in the month.

Do you carry things other than food – maybe pet food, household cleaning supplies and the like?
We are currently in the process of expanding our offerings. In addition to food, we currently offer personal hygiene products, all-purpose cleaners, feminine hygiene products, and a small selection of cat and dog food. We also have a fantastic “Birthday Box” program, which consists of a small selection of toys on hand for families in need who could not otherwise provide a birthday or holiday gift to their child.

What is “food insecurity,” and is that a problem in rural Alberta?
The Government of Canada defines food insecurity as “the inability to acquire and/or consume an adequate diet or sufficient quantity of food.” We feel that given the fact that northern Alberta is generally composed of more rural communities, separated by larger distances, food insecurity has fallen under the radar. The ability of families to travel to areas where food may be more accessible or affordable has caused even families who have not struggled with food insecurity in the past to need assistance now. With rising food prices and, of course, the extent of job loss we have seen, demand for assistance in locating accessible food has gone up dramatically.

What’s better donated to the food bank? Food or money? If I donate money, what is the money used for?
Financial donation is prefered since it allows us to purchase items we know will be valued. We understand the needs of our patrons, and we allow them to choose items that will be used in their homes instead of handing out premade boxes. However, having said that, we will never turn away donations of food or personal care items.

Do you accept donations of seasonal fresh vegetable garden produce and fruits? How would one donate those?
We absolutely accept and encourage seasonal produce! In fact, we would encourage our vegetable gardeners in the community to grow an extra row or two and donate what comes of it to the food bank. We do request that you make an appointment to drop off the produce, so that we can ensure that they make it into the fridge in a timely manner.

You feature some recipes on your Facebook page. Would you have all the ingredients for those available at the food bank?
We do our absolute best to provide ideas for recipes using the products we have on hand. While we cannot guarantee that all items can be provided, these recipes are meant to encourage families to try something new using a mixture of what they may already have in their fridge or pantry, with an item or two from our food bank to fill a gap.

If I need assistance and need to visit the foodbank, what is the procedure?
The best way to get the assistance you need is to call (780) 876-2075 or (780) 512-9628, or e-mail centralpeacefoodbanksociety@gmail.com to book an appointment or discuss your mobility/accessibility requirements. We do our best to be as accommodating as possible to the needs of our community.

Do you give out bags of food, or do I choose which foods I need? How does that work?
Our food bank operates on a personal-selection basis. We allow patrons to come in and choose what they need. We understand that every family has different requirements and preferences, and we want to make sure that the items leaving our facility will be put to good use and do not get wasted. We have found that this system ensures that families are selecting the food to fill the gaps in their fridges or pantries with items that they will find value in, not items they are being told to take.

What is an average day like for a volunteer at the food bank?
On any given day, there are a number of tasks that need to be completed. A large portion of the time spent in the food bank is cleaning, organizing and stocking shelves. The appointments are only a fraction of the work that goes on behind the scenes. Generally speaking, prior to the appointment we ensure that the facility is clean, orderly and well-stocked. When patrons arrive, we sign them in then assist them in finding the food staples and items needed in their homes. After the appointment, we once again clean and complete a front face of the stock.

There are many other responsibilities, including grant and donation acquisition, booking appointments, picking up donations from various drop-offs and stores that collect items for the food bank, promoting the food bank through social media, and attending seminars and meetings put on by Alberta Food Banks to gather information on ways we can better serve our community. Everyday is always a little different, and we are very much still learning and growing.

How does one become a volunteer for the food bank? Is there an age limit?
We will never turn down any assistance offered, including someone looking to volunteer regularly or on an occasional basis. Our only requirement is that you are 18 years of age. But we are always willing to accept the assistance of those looking to help clean, organize, complete seasonal tasks, pickups and promotion, or the odd job here and there.

Finally, what would you like to tell the community about the work you guys do?
We think it is most important to let people know that the food bank was really started with the mindset of community helping community. Whether food insecurity has been an ongoing issue, or this is something you’ve never experienced before, we are a judgment-free space for people to come. We try to fill the gap so that you have what you need to live with dignity. As our mandate reads, “We aim to lead the fight against hunger, in partnership with our community and in service to our neighbors in need.” At the end of the day, we really are all neighbors.

Contact:

  • Location: 4712 50 Street, Rycroft
  • Phone: (780) 876-2075 or (780) 512-9628
  • E-mail: centralpeacefoodbanksociety@gmail.com