Woodstock food bank feeding hundreds under work lights in new home

·2 min read
A mountain of donated clothing sits at the new Valley Food Back location, waiting to be unpacked once the dust settles from construction. (Shane Fowler/CBC News - image credit)
A mountain of donated clothing sits at the new Valley Food Back location, waiting to be unpacked once the dust settles from construction. (Shane Fowler/CBC News - image credit)

Not long ago, Woodstock's food bank was bursting at the seams.

New Brunsick's Valley Food Bank had been supplying as much food to the community as a small grocery store would, feeding around 540 families every month, all in a space about the size of a small house.

When the opportunity came up to move to a place more than five times as big, staff took it. But they couldn't justify the expense of having two places open at the same time.

Staff and the board of directors decided to continue to feed those hundreds of families, even as construction crews worked on the food bank's new home all around them.

"Not going to lie, it's been chaotic," said Monica Grant, the executive director of the Valley Food Bank.

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

When staff first moved to 163 Houlton Rd. in Woodstock, N.B., a few weeks ago, they were sorting through boxes of donated food using the flashlights on their phones.

Even now, much of the work is being done using lamps and work lights to illuminate the dozens of pallets of food, ranging from potatoes to canned soup to cranberry juice, that need to be sorted into about 56 daily food boxes for families.

"Just to kind of give a baseline, back in 2010 we were doing around 290 clients, and then for 2020 we're at 540," said Grant.

Grant said new families are showing up every week as construction crews install lighting, insulation, flooring, fridges and freezers.

"We had a member of the community donate a brand new walk-in freezer for us, which is about $40,000," said Nigel Drake, a member of the food bank's board of directors. "That was a significant donation, so we'll have much more freezer space than we had before."

Drake said going from a 2,500-square-foot space to a 14,000-square-foot one will be worth the short-term headache.

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

The new location, a former clothing store, was purchased outright by the food bank. The old space had been rented. It boasts a loading bay big enough to bring in whole pallets of donated goods, rather than one box at a time.

Multiple rooms will allow them to separate clothing and food donations, and the food bank now has larger refrigerator and freezer space, which means more fresh meat and dairy for clients.

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

Grant expects it will be late February or early March before construction is completed, but says her four staff members are giddy about the possibilities the expanded space offers.

They continue to offer up food and clothing donations daily, and Grant says she doesn't want anyone in need to be deterred by the construction.

"If we can serve in the dark, we can do pretty much everything," said Grant.

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