‘Grocery society’ no longer collecting in Abbotsford area

Kelly Fowler of the Fraser Valley Grocery Resource Society said he has stopped placing empty grocery bags on local doorsteps.

Kelly Fowler is shown in the store operated by the Oasis Outreach Society in Chilliwack. He is a co-founder of the site

Kelly Fowler is shown in the store operated by the Oasis Outreach Society in Chilliwack. He is a co-founder of the site

The president of a society that caused concerns for the local food bank says he is no longer collecting food in the Abbotsford area.

Kelly Fowler of the Fraser Valley Grocery Resource Society said he has stopped placing empty grocery bags on local doorsteps with a request for food donations.

“I don’t like stepping on anyone’s toes … The food bank’s been around a lot longer than we have and they do a very good job,” he said.

The issue – reported earlier this week in The News – arose when Dave Murray, co-ordinator of the Abbotsford Community Services’ (ACS) Food Bank, was made aware of the grocery bags, which were attached with a note that said, “We support the local food banks.”

He said some people assumed the collection was being done on behalf of the ACS Food Bank.

The accompanying notes did not indicate the Grocery Resource Society intends to re-sell some of the food items to low-income people, but Fowler said the group’s website is clearly listed and people can obtain the information from there.

Fowler said he formed the society about a month ago, and is currently “stockpiling” food, which is being stored in two donated warehouse spaces in Surrey. He said many of the donations come from businesses with stock nearing its expiry date.

He hopes to have a distribution centre in place in the Aldergrove area by the end of the year.

Fowler said he distributed the grocery bags in Abbotsford to about 800 homes, but is now focusing on other communities, although he wouldn’t specify which ones.

Once he has collected enough food, Fowler said his website will sell the items at cut-rate prices, and the groceries will be delivered free of charge to low-income seniors from Abbotsford to Langley.

“I’d rather just focus on the seniors’ scene because they get ignored … Nobody is taking care of seniors,” Fowler said.

But Murray said no senior is going without support in the Abbotsford area. They can receive help through the ACS Food Bank or through the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers food to seniors and other people who have difficulty leaving their home.

Murray said he finds it “unethical” that Fowler would take donated food and then sell it.

“We operate by a code of ethics, as do all food banks in Canada, and we’re definitely not allowed to do that,” he said.

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