Ucluelet’s generosity is shining through the economic chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Food Bank on the Edge Society celebrated a Christmas morning’s worth of excitement last Tuesday as they cheerfully unpacked 23 food boxes from the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild.
“It was an incredible amount,” the society’s executive director Cris Martin told the Westerly News. “It was quite a stunning surprise in terms of the magnitude of it…To get absolutely fresh produce to give out is such a treat. It’s such a warm feeling to give fresh, fresh, produce.”
She said the “very, very, plentiful” boxes were made possible through funds raised by Nora Morrison’s front door portrait project as well as donations made through the TUCG’s website.
She added that the society has also received massive donations of fish from Ucluelet Harbour Seafoods, Cermaq Canada and Creative Salmon as well as hundreds of pounds of potatoes from the Ucluelet First Nation and Jiggers.
“It’s really heartwarming to know that we have a soft spot in everybody’s hearts here. It really makes a difference. We have never had food like this coming in,” Martin said. “To receive donations this big is quite overwhelming and it really makes us feel secure that we can help feed the community. We’re ready to have an increase in clients.”
She said the society has also received funding from the provincial government and, through a collaboration with Ucluelet’s municipal council, has increased the amount of food each client receives by about 30 per cent.
The food bank has received so much support during the pandemic that its facility could not contain the town’s generosity and the nearby Seaplane Base Rec Hall is now being used for extra storage.
“In short, we’re loaded with food and it’s great,” Martin said. “We’re seeing tons more support than usual.”
She said the society expects and hopes to see a swell in clientele as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the town’s tourism economy and is reaching out to residents who may be struggling to ask for help.
“We’re trying to be very creative with our approach and to help people get the food help they need…We definitely have lots of food to give away and we’re very proud of the nutritional value of our hampers,” she said. “In the food bank world, there’s always been a stigma and, for anybody who hasn’t faced some level of food insecurity, it’s not on their radar…It’s not a step down in your life, it’s more like a bridge. We’re bridging the gap until things return to whatever normal is going to look like.”
She added that residents can sign up to receive a food hamper over the phone and deliveries are available.
“I have a great crew of smart, brilliant women who share the same vision. We just want to be here and feed people. It’s what we like to do,” she said. “There’s this desire among all of us at the Food Bank on the Edge that we just urgently want to have people come and utilize this service.”
Anyone wanting to reach out can contact Martin at 250-726-6909—residents are asked not to call on Tuesdays as that’s the day the society has its hands full with deliveries and pickup—or through the Food Bank on the Edge’s Facebook page.
The food bank also launched a new avenue to receive donations this month and is now able to accept donations through e-transfers to Foodbankedge@gmail.com, along with the traditional PO Box 1146 route and Martin said she’s had an inspiring view from her front row seat of the town’s giving spirit during the crisis.
“People are just seriously jumping on board. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t get emotional about the amount of generosity,” she said. “I’ve said it many times before, but it’s just so wonderful to feel like we’re held up by this community; we are just held up and supported and, really, not a day goes by I’m not reduced to tears at some point just because it’s so lovely. We’re very lucky to be in this small, caring community. Every day there are examples of it, every single day.”