Lucas Driediger and Rachel Andor load a vehicle at the drive-thru at the Archway Food Bank of Abbotsford on Essendene Avenue. (Submitted photo)

Abbotsford charities feel the impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Food bank, Salvation Army and Cyrus Centre face challenges

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the hoarding of groceries, is causing food shortages and other challenges for Abbotsford’s three main charities that support people in need.

The Archway Food Bank of Abbotsford, the Salvation Army and Cyrus Centre are all experiencing a dramatic decline in donations.

Food bank manager Dave Murray said that the agency was already low on food before the pandemic – which is typical at this time of year – and they were in the position of having to purchase items such as rice, pasta and peanut butter.

But supermarket shelves are being quickly cleared out by shoppers worried about being isolated at home.

“We have experienced the first major issue in buying food in that our supplier was not able to provide any of our $10,000 order thus far,” Murray said.

He said the decline in food donations – such as fresh produce from Save-on-Foods – comes at at time when more people are in need of support.

“Not only will our low-income families be the most affected, we expect to see new people who, a week ago, would have never imagined they would need a food bank.”

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Murray said that as the severity of the outbreak increases, Archway staff are looking at other ways to distribute food, including drop-offs and mobile food banks across the city.

He said the food bank will ramp up its seniors’ delivery service as needed and continue to work with the Archway Meals on Wheels program.

Murray said the food bank, which serves 3,000 people a month, is now distributing food to clients through drive-thru system, and has a few staff members who are working a modified schedule between home and working on site.

He said staff and volunteers are making sure to bag fresh products and have stepped up disinfecting procedures.

The Salvation Army is also experiencing a drop in donations. Spokesperson Kim Hissink said the products that are most needed include soups, pasta, canned meats and peanut butter.

The agency has closed its thrift store on Gladys Avenue until further notice, but drop-off donations are still being accepted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

The meal centre is still operating, and is offering take-out service for breakfast and lunch. The cafe is open in the morning with a to-go service for coffee and tea.

Hissink said meals and support services are continuing to operate daily for people staying at the shelter.

Cyrus Centre, which serves at-risk youth, is also keeping its shelter running, although executive director Les Talvio said their group activities and programs – such as life skills – have been postponed.

Talvio said the centre is still taking one-on-one appointments with youth, but there is no drop-in service at this time.

Food hampers and meals in to-go cartons are being distributed at the door, instead of clients coming into the centre.

“My concern is for everyone’s health and safety for the youth and the staff,” Talvio said.

He said food donations are way down, as are contributions of needed products such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Anyone who has a food or product donation to make is urged to contact the agency first rather than just dropping by.

Here’s how people can help:

• The food bank says monetary donations are best and can be made online at Abbotsfordfoodbank.com/covid or call 604-859-5749.

• The Salvation Army can be reached at 604-852-9305 (ext. 138 or 104).

• Contact Cyrus Centre at 604-859-5773 or les@cyruscentre.com.

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Les Talvio, excutive director of Cyrus Centre for youth, sits amid the centre’s emergency shelter, which remains open during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, group activities and program have been postponed. (Abbotsford News file photo)

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