Friends in Need operations manager Chuck Griffith packs a brown bag at the food bank.

Friends in Need operations manager Chuck Griffith packs a brown bag at the food bank.

Ridge food bank, charity at odds

Friends in Need does not collect door-to-door, worried about food leaving Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

A non-profit society which runs a low-cost grocery store has the Friends in Need Food Bank concerned its volunteers are now collecting donations in Maple Ridge.

Marian Rice alerted the food bank to the collection drive last week after she found a poster tacked to a grocery bag on her doorstep.

It read: “Finally a way to help underprivileged kids in school … Greetings from Fairshare Food Services Society.

The poster asked people to fill the grocery bag with non-perishable items such as canned food, pasta, cereal and coffee. It also purported to be supporting Youth Unlimited, which is not true.

Dennis Hemminger, the area director of Youth Unlimited, confirmed his organization is not associated with Fairshare. “I’m a skeptical person,” said Rice, who was annoyed to learn the donated food would be sold in Fairshare’s “low-cost grocery stores” located in Langley, Aldergrove and Nanaimo.

“They shouldn’t be soliciting outside their area.”

Kelly Fowler, the founder of Fairshare food service, acknowledged the society made a mistake by claiming they “support” Youth Unlimited.

“We’ve got it all straightened out,” Fowler said.

Fairshare intends to open a store in Maple Ridge in the next two months.

According to its website, the society gives people a chance “to enjoy quality nutrition at about 50 per cent of a regular store.”

Fowler said you must be a member to purchase groceries at their stores by proving you earn less than $20,000. Membership is free.

“We fill a vacancy that is one step beyond the food bank,” Fowler explained, adding there’s a growing demand for the service.

Fairshare was formerly known as the Fraser Valley Grocery Resource Society but changed its name last year.

Fowler is also the co-founder of the Oasis Outreach Society in Chilliwack, which runs a similar store that re-sells donated food items at reduced prices to low-income members. He is no longer associated with that organization.

Fowler says the food in his stores is funded mostly through corporate donations but is sometimes supplemented by individual donations.

“We run on zero bottom dollar,” he added.

“We have churches sending us their vouchers because they get twice as much groceries than they get at a regular grocery store. Our stores are quite successful, but I call it an unfortunate success because it’s unfortunate that there are so many people in need.”

Fairshare’s food drive however has annoyed the Maple Ridge’s Friends in Need Food Bank, a registered charity and member of the Food Banks Canada.

But Fowler believes he is just filling a need.

“Food banks do a good job but there are still limitations on what they get,” he added.

Lynda Lawrence, a Friends in Need Food Bank board member, does not want residents of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to be confused by Fairshare and believes their poster misrepresents details.

“I don’t know where the money from the sale of their groceries goes,” said Lawrence.

“And to collect food and take it out of the community that’s just wrong. They are taking food from people who really need it.”

Friends in Need Food Bank does not collect or solicit donations at the door or via phone.