The Friends In Need Food Bank needs more storage space. (Special to The News)

The Friends In Need Food Bank needs more storage space. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge food bank seeking storage for emergency preparedness products

New portal announced by Food Banks B.C. and Alberta to help local food banks prepare for disasters

Food Banks B.C. and Alberta have joined forces to provide emergency response preparedness training across the two provinces.

The announcement was made as part of Emergency Preparedness Week about the “first of its kind” system that will provide a platform for food banks to be able to get those in need quick access to food and essentials during a natural disaster or emergency.

The training is being financially supported by the Canadian Red Cross.

The online emergency preparedness portal was developed to help individual food banks plan for emergencies through training and documentation that can be accessed in response to a natural disaster or pandemic.

“It is the first scalable template of its kind that will enable food banks to mobilize efficiently and effectively,” Tuesday’s announcement said.

The portal was created in collaboration with ETHOS Career Management Group, a B.C.-based company that specializes in online education and training.

Preparing for an emergency is not new to Friends In Need Food Bank executive director, Mary Robson, who has been working with her team on an emergency preparedness plan for the past couple of years with the help of Barbara Morgan, emergency program coordinator with the City of Pitt Meadows.

“We’re always adding to it and changing it,” said Robson, who received a book from Food Banks B.C. about four years ago that provided a template for emergency preparedness.

READ MORE: New COVID protocols for Maple Ridge food bank requires more storage

“We’ve been working at that book trying to keep things updated,” said Robson, noting they’ve added their current COVID-19 pandemic protocol to their plan. They also met with Morgan again who went through the book with them and told them what areas to concentrate on.

“Now we’re adding a section for Pitt Meadows,” said Robson.

Emergency preparedness has been in the works for the past several years for food banks across the province, noted Robson, adding that her most pressing issue is not planning for an emergency, but storage space for the emergency products.

Robson was able to find additional warehouse space for the past year that she has been able to afford with funding from the federal government’s COVID relief fund.

However, her lease runs out at the end of June this year.

READ MORE: New manager at Friends in Need Food Bank

“Right now I have food in storage that could easily look after 1,000 people for a week. But I can’t store that volume in my current warehouse,” she explained, adding that she is looking for another storage space in either Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows with bay door access so her team can use a palette-jack or a forklift.

“While the pandemic has undoubtedly become the catalyst for many community food banks to be ready to support a growing number of Canadians requiring food and everyday essentials, it is not the only reason why the two provincial associations united to create this portal for their members,” said the announcement from Food Banks B.C. and Alberta.

Food banks across the provinces must be prepared for disasters like floods or wildfires, work that has been “taxing” on volunteers and staff.

Dan Huang-Taylor, executive director of Food Banks B.C., described the portal as a “one-stop-shop solution”.

“Many of our members are operating on limited resources as they prioritize getting food and essentials to a growing number of clients in need of care and help right now because of the pandemic,” said Huang-Taylor.

“We know they may also be affected by floods or fires, which will strain their resources further. We want to eliminate any uncertainty in how to respond so they can simply focus on a mobilized response.”

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