The CMS Food Bank in South Cowichan has had to close temporarily. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Vancouver Island food banks reopen on a limited basis

Operations in Mill Bay, Duncan and Courtenay once again feeding those who need it

A Vancouver Island food bank that closed recently due to a possible COVID-19 contamination is back in business.

The Duncan-based Cowichan Valley Basket Society is one of three similar Vancouver Island operations to close, then reopen this week.

The CMS Food Bank, which serves Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake, and the Comox Valley Food Bank also closed last week due to health concerns.

The Duncan operation reopened on Monday on a limited basis. It will hand out sandwiches between noon and 2 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, serving outside from the back loading deck. Hampers will be handed out between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Pick-up arrangements can be made at the food bank or by phone (250-746-1566) starting at 9 a.m. Phone calls are preferred.

Meanwhile, the Comox Valley charity announced in a social media post it would also be reopening its doors on March 30 after closing March 24.

“We ask for your patience as we implement new provincial health authority protocols that will significantly change the way in which we distribute food to our clients,” noted the post. “However, these new protocols are necessary and will help to ensure your safety as well as the safety of our staff and volunteers.

“We look forward to opening and once again providing this much needed essential service to our citizens of the Comox Valley.”

The agency asks anyone planning to use the food bank to bring proper identification along with bags or something to carry food.

The food bank will continue to be open regular hours Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Finally, the CMS Food Bank in South Cowichan announced on Monday that it will be giving out hampers in April, but only by appointment. Clients will have to phone or email ahead of time to arrange pick-up of food hampers.

“We don’t want lineups here,” coordinator Traci Waite explained. “We want to avoid that.”

In addition, the food bank will not be accepting food donations at this time, although it will continue to accept cash donations on its website (

Food banks have to be ready for emergencies, but the COVID-19 pandemic was not something they saw coming.

“Talking to other food banks, no on was prepared for this,” Waite said. “We’re prepared for earthquakes, but not for this.”

One challenge they are trying to address is that many staples, like sugar, rice and oatmeal, are bought in bulk and portioned out by volunteers, but for health reasons, they can’t do that right now. CMS has also lost many volunteers, who have chosen to stay home. The average age of volunteers at the food bank, Waite estimated, is about 75.

Waite said she is “super happy” about the provincial government’s announcement on Monday of a $3-million emergency grant from the Community Gaming Grants program to Food Banks BC.

The situation may be changing daily right now, Waite said, but once the pandemic is over, CMS will resume normal activities.

“When we are back up and running and full steam ahead, we’ll be there for them,” she said.


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