The Salvation Army’s emergency disaster services vehicle has been visiting Abbotsford neighbourhoods twice a week throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so until the end of the summer. From left are Chaplain Chris and outreach workers Deb, Jessie and Rick, with Dennis in the truck. (Submitted photo)

Abbotsford charities see hike in demand for services during pandemic

Archway Food Bank and Salvation Army work hard to help those impacted

The Salvation Army in Abbotsford says that it has experienced a significant increase in the demand for food for families and individuals.

Fundraising coordinator Kim Hissink said the agency offers a daily “grocery cart” program from noon to 1 p.m. at the Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue and, in May alone, they provided groceries for 535 adults and 43 children.

Hissink said the Salvation Army has also seen an increase in the number of daily food hampers it provides at its emergency food bank at the centre.

“The food donations from our community partner grocery stores, local farmers and other suppliers has remained strong and even increased – allowing us to continue to fulfill the demands,” she said.

Hissink said there has been a slight decrease in the daily community lunch service. She said many factors play into that, including that some of the regular guests might feel safer remaining in camps or homes rather than gathering with larger numbers of people.

RELATED: Emergency relief fund totals $72,000 for 4 Abbotsford charities

But the agency continues to offer meals on a to-go basis, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 30 shelter guests each day.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army’s community outreach team has been going out twice a week to local neighbourhoods, using the emergency disaster services vehicle and offering emotional and spiritual support, some basic food supplies and treats for kids.

Hissink said this initiative – called Community Outreach Days – will continue until the end of summer, thanks to support from Abbotsford Community Foundation’s COVID Emergency Relief Fund.

The outreach team also takes the van out daily to connect with those in the camps around the city as well with some seniors who are shut in.

They also partnered with the Abbotsford school district and, through grants received from Agriculture Canada and Food Banks BC, they were able to provide enough food for up to 800 hampers per month.

Hissink said the Salvation Army has also worked with local landlords to secure housing for a number of shelter guests during COVID-19.

She said the community response to the needs during the pandemic has been “outstanding.”

“Despite the challenges that we initially faced back in mid-March, we have been so blessed to have the support of so many in our community. New opportunities have been created, allowing us to serve families and individuals on a bigger scale,” Hissink said.

Meanwhile, the Archway Community Services Food Bank is also seeing increased demand in some areas, including in programs that offer delivery.

A spokesperson for the food bank was not available for comment, but according to their website, the Starfish Pack program, which provides food on weekends for school children, fed 500 students in May.

As well, the food bank almost doubled the number of food deliveries for those in self-isolation in addition to the food hampers delivered to seniors with mobility barriers.

RELATED: Archway Community Services in Abbotsford expands seniors’ support during pandemic

Meals on Wheels has seen a 65 per cent increase in the need for meals for seniors and those unable to shop for and prepare their own food.

The food bank says that its stock of fresh and non-perishable food has fluctuated during the pandemic.

“The donated fresh food we have come to depend on has been decreasing, which means more purchasing,” the website states.

As well, the food bank has been impacted by the cancellation of several fundraising events, although many community initiatives have resulted in large donations. These include recent contributions from local Rotary Clubs, the Abbotsford Community Foundation and several others.

To support the Salvation Army in Abbotsford, visit centreofhope.net or call 604-852-9305. For the Archway Food Bank, visit abbotsfordfoodbank.com or call 604-859-5749.

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