Abbotsford’s Salvation Army has rolled out a emergency disaster-services truck to help feed the city’s vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a normal day, the Salvation Army would host 30 to 150 hungry mouths inside its Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue, but the provincial health restrictions for COVID-19 have made this impossible.
“All the meals are now taken away from the Centre of Hope, and that’s really the focus right across the province, not just here,” said Ian Pollard, divisional director for the Salvation Army. “The main reason is to protect staff, volunteers and the public we serve.”
The takeaway meals are being cooked in 20 mobile food trucks that the Salvation Army operates across B.C. The trucks were originally intended to respond to local or provincial emergencies, such as the flood and fire seasons. But they are now being used to support the charity facilities that aren’t capable of providing takeaway meals en masse.
“Rather than just being on call, we’re bringing it into service all the time, and making sure we can be available,” Pollard said. “Basically if [the facilities] can’t do takeaway service, then [the trucks] replace that. If they can, then they help to increase the amount of output.
“As demand goes up, we can move around to other parts of Abbotsford and help out.”
Abbotsford has the charity’s largest mobile food truck, able to cook 1,000 meals in an hour, said Pollard. He said the truck is currently cooking 75 to 100 breakfast meals, and 100 to 125 lunches a day.
The Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope does have the ability to cook a large amount of takeaway meals, but demand for food is going up across the city, according to Pollard.
“As businesses are forced to close and lay off people, and kids are out of school and [their parents] can’t take advantage of any of the food programs, we’re seeing more demand.”
While there are no set locations or schedule for the trucks yet, the charity is talking with the city about where the service would be needed the most.
“There were conversations last week [with the city], because we just don’t want to duplicate services,” Pollard said. “Our outreach team is already going out… and delivering food to people, and checking in on their needs in the various camps across the city.”
One of the challenges the Salvation Army faces is the closure of their thrift stores. The revenue from these stores goes directly back into the community, Pollard said.
“That’s been a gap. The longer it goes on, we’ll certainly start to feel it … whether that be buying groceries, delivering other things or family services,” he said. “If anybody wants to help, the best way is cash donations to salvationarmy.ca”