The pieces of the puzzle have been falling into place to allow a major expansion of a Friends in Need Food Bank program that will help hungry people and cut down on food waste.
Food bank executive-director Mary Robson has a new warehouse lined up and a few days before the start of the Ridge Meadows Home Show, was about to sign a lease for the new building, though it will need some work.
The food bank also has a new truck to ferry fresh food donations back and forth.
Earlier this week, Robson learned that the food bank will receive a $150,000 grant from Food Banks Canada for new refrigeration equipment for the building.
Now, all she needs is for money to drop from the skies to help pay for renos to the warehouse, such as a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, a new floor, fresh paint, better lighting, fire sprinkler upgrades and a washing station for the tote containers.
With any luck, everything will have come together and by Home Show weekend, a major expansion of the food bank’s Perishable Food Recovery Program will be underway.
That program allows the food bank to collect fresh groceries of all types, haul them in two refrigerated trucks to the warehouse, then redistribute that food among the myriad of food bank programs.
“Now, I need a patron to come out of the sky and say, ‘I’ll do the leasehold improvements,’ ” Robson said.
She has the grant to install the refrigeration equipment, but not to fix up the building, she explained.
The food bank currently recovers perishable food, but only from Meridian Farm Market, Thrifty Foods and Shoppers Drug Mart.
With 1,200 sq. feet of new, refrigerated warehouse space, Friends in Need can bring on the four Save-On Foods stores and dramatically increase the amount of fresh food it saves and redistributes.
The food bank will also continue in its main location in downtown Maple Ridge, at 22726 Dewdney Trunk Rd.
Getting access to more fresh food will cut down on food bank bills because it won’t have to buy as many fresh groceries, Robson pointed out.
Adding the four Save-On-Foods stores in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will augment the number of large boxes or totes that are now collected every day full of fresh food.
Robson said previously that Food Banks B.C. set out a system in 2017 that details how to set up a program where grocery stores put their surplus food into tote boxes, which are collected, then distributed through the food bank.
“When the money’s in the bank and I know I have a location, I am flat out running,” Robson said.
“I want to be out the door and putting this together. I want to be up and running by June, that’s my target.”
The food bank also received a grant from Food Banks B.C. to buy the second refrigerated truck to haul the groceries.
• Friends in Need Food Bank will have a booth in the family section of the home show, where volunteers will be giving out vegetable seed packages. The hope is that people share some of the veggies grown in their gardens with the food bank. The name of the program is Plant A Row, Grow A Row, Donate A Row, Robson said.