Kellie Tennant is questioning food bank policy of not giving hampers to the homeless. Phil Melnychuk/The News Kellie Tennant is questioning food bank policy of not giving hampers to the homeless. Phil Melnychuk/The News

Compassion of Maple Ridge food bank questioned

Current B.C. policy is not to give food bank hampers to those without an address.

Two advocates for the poor are questioning the Food Banks B.C. policy of denying hampers to those who have no fixed address.

Others have asked the same question of the Friends in Need Food Bank in Maple Ridge.

Chris Bossley and Kellie Tennant have both sent e-mails to the food bank association asking for an explanation and justification of such a policy.

“It just doesn’t seem very compassionate,” said Tennant.

“The … policy just seems to be kicking the most vulnerable people when they’re down. It seems discriminatory, to me.”

Tennant is a family mediator and has been a long-term donor to food banks.

“I’m not angry at them. I just want them to sort it out.”

She said other food banks provide food to those who are living on the street and questions the policy because it’s based on a few instances of littering or people selling the contents of their food hampers.

“If we don’t know how to do that, let’s consult with other food banks and see what they do. You don’t discriminate against a whole group of people because of one or two instances.”

She puts some of the reluctance to the opposition of some in the community to the homeless or drug addicts.

But Tennant says if people have enough to eat, there will be less trouble.

“If people spend all day just trying to find food, they then they have no time to find housing,” or support, or treatment or doctors or any other help.

Tennant moved here recently and saw the anger towards the homeless people in Maple Ridge.

“So I just thought I would pitch in and do what I could do, right.”

Laura Lansink, executive-director of Food Banks B.C., replied to both e-mails, plus another asking the same questions, and explained that giving out hampers using a “no-barrier” model, to those without proof of address, is rare in B.C.

“Especially in urban areas, the requirements for proof of address is common.”

One reason for that is to ensure that locally donated food goes to local residents. Another reason is that street people may not have the facilities for cooking the food.

However, food banks are encouraged to give out any non-perishable food, or food that doesn’t require cooking, to the homeless.

She reiterated that the Friends in Need Food Bank donates food to two local organizations in Maple Ridge that provide meal programs.

The policies don’t mean that food banks don’t respect such individuals, said Lansink.

Friends in Need Food Bank executive-director Mary Robson said the food bank is now working with seven outreach agencies, including one for seniors, that connect with people who are on the street.

Those agencies can help people find homes or get help and also distribute food packs.

The food bank is now trying to schedule those groups to find out where the gaps are, Robson said.

“We have a great social network out there. They’re the ones that know best how to identify the need and how to deal with it.

“People can come to us when they’re in residence, and if they’re not in residence, then we work with the agencies that are working with them.”

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