The Friends in Need Food bank’s new GM arrived just in time to steer the organization through the final phases of winning a Business Excellence Award.
The first time some people in the area would have “met” Evan Seal was during the online awards presentations for the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards, as he did the acceptance speech for non-profit of the year. He also took the lead on the nomination, handling the interviews.
“It was an honour to win,” he said, noting the nominees were impressive local organizations, including fellow finalists from the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association and Ridge Meadows Recycling Society.
Normally it would be Mary Robson, the face of the local food bank, in the spotlight. But while the executive director is still on the job, she is stepping back from the hands-on operations. Robson will handle fundraising, writing grant applications and other administrative tasks, while Seal is involved with the day-to-day logistics.
Seal spent more than 25 years as a photojournalist with the Surrey Leader. He covered many assignments and photographed countless subjects who were on the margins of society. He found himself at the food bank taking pictures regularly.
“They were a treasure trove of stories. We were always there, and I really appreciated the people,” said Seal.
A new professional opportunity at the Friends in Need Food Bank struck a chord with him.
“We were very fortunate to find him when he was looking to make a switch in the direction of his career,” said Robson.
“He has a lot of empathy for people who are marginalized,” she added.
“He certainly has the compassion, and understanding of what food banking is all about.”
Seal heads a group of volunteers and staff who put together bins of food for households.
In addition to cans and boxes of non-perishables, the food bank now handles truckloads of produce. Since June of 2019, they have collected some 770,000 kg of food and taken it to their Perishable Food Recovery Facility. Of that, 52 per cent was sorted and distributed for human consumption, 37 per cent went to local farms for feed, and 11 per cent went to compost. None of it was wasted.
It’s a big job, and it has been made more challenging because of COVID-19. The food bank has gone to a new drive-through service, has increased home deliveries and generally takes pains to ensure it can stay in operation while keeping volunteers and clients safe.
Seal finds it rewarding work.
“At the end of the day, you really feel like you’re making a difference in the community.”
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