President of flooded Sackville Food Bank runs makeshift centre out of home

·3 min read
President of flooded Sackville Food Bank runs makeshift centre out of home
The Sackville Food Bank is closed because of a flood discovered Wednesday morning. Patterson isn't sure when it will reopen.
The Sackville Food Bank is closed because of a flood discovered Wednesday morning. Patterson isn't sure when it will reopen.

(Tori Weldon/CBC - image credit)

When Heather Patterson woke up early Wednesday morning to texts from the food bank landlord, she knew it wasn't a good sign.

After a quick phone call she learned the Sackville Food Bank was flooded. As the president of the group, her mind when into damage control.

Were the seven freezer and two industrialized fridges damaged? The centre had just been stocked with a week's worth of food the day before. What would need to be thrown out?

Food bank clients were supposed to be picking up two weeks worth of food that morning. What would happen to them?

Tori Weldon/CBC
Tori Weldon/CBC

"We had to cancel that and get in touch with as many people as we could," said Patterson.

A day later, Patterson has few answers except that people rely on the food bank, and she and the other volunteers will make sure they get what they need.

Perishables that weren't damaged in the flood were removed from the building and taken to Patterson's house and that of a volunteer.

By Thursday afternoon, they were running a makeshift food bank out of her home, complete with a delivery service.

We're like a family

The Sackville Food Bank serves about 75 individuals and families in the area. People pick up food every two weeks. Since COVID-19 hit, volunteers were recruited to deliver to people who couldn't pickup food or who weren't comfortable going out during a pandemic.

"A lot of our families don't have transportation, so when they would come to the food bank they would get a taxi, and that kind of defeats the purpose," said Patterson.

Heather Patterson/submitted
Heather Patterson/submitted

"I mean they're coming to us because the cant' afford to buy food themselves."

The food bank closes every year at Christmas, and clients get by, but Patterson said people can prepare for that.

The Sackville Food Bank runs on an honour system, where clients have to prove they live in the area but do not have to submit any financial records to prove a need. The number of pickups is tracked, but records with phone numbers aren't always kept.

There was a recent effort to get up-to-date information, with registration forms sent out last pickup day, but Patterson said the first chance people had to return the forms was the day of the flood.

So the past few days were a flurry of phone calls, texts and messages on social media making sure everyone either has a delivery scheduled or a ride.

"You know the food bank is like a family, we get to know our clients really well and they get to know us. They're all very thoughtful of us, and we try to be thoughtful of them."

The flood

Patterson said she isn't sure what caused the flood, but about two inches of water covered the floor at its worst.

She stopped by to see for herself Wednesday morning.

"The water was just coming out like Niagara Falls … I knew we were in trouble," said Patterson.

Since then, she said, the landlord has brought in a restoration company that will remove everything and put back what can be kept.

"We were really well-stocked," said Patterson, noting that the food depot in Moncton had just done a large delivery the day before.

"A lot of it's canned goods, and I suspect those will be fine, but you never know with a flood."

Patterson is hopeful the damage isn't too extensive, but she has no idea when the building will be back in use.

Tori Weldon/CBC
Tori Weldon/CBC

For now, a steady line of cars pulls up to Patterson's house as she and a few volunteers organize grocery bags and gift certificates.

Some of the cars carry volunteers, others carry people picking up food for family and friends.

Patterson is relieved that people counting on the Sackville Food Bank will be fed.