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Squamish food bank gives as well as it gets

The Market receives a new van and gives its old one to Whistler.

Though the need for food is great in the Sea to Sky Corridor, so too is the spirit of collaboration among food banks. 

The pandemic has increased the number of folks who need to access food through the Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton food banks, said Mariana Borsuk-Gudz, program manager with The Market (Squamish Food Bank).

In Squamish, approximately 300 folks currently access food per month over 850 or so visits. 

"Each of those is taking a full basket or hamper, feeding a family of four or five," Borsuk-Gudz said. 

(On Mondays, residents of Under One Roof get appointments to shop and they also get meals three times per day provided with their supportive housing.)

"We have been really lucky to have had incredible support over the last year, really, with COVID and the way people have given back to their community has been totally astounding," she said. 

Recently, Squamish got a new refrigerated van thanks to an $80,000 grant through Food Bank Canada and Food Banks BC. Then they gifted their old van to the Whistler Food Bank this week.

The new van is used for picking up food rescued each morning from local stores, such as Nesters, Save On Foods and others. 

The approximately 7,000 lbs of food picked up each week is perfectly usable but otherwise headed for landfill because it has a blemish or is near its best before date. 

The van swap to Whistler is part of a continued collaboration between the organizations, Borsuk-Gudz said. 

"We have monthly meetings now as a corridor food bank coalition. Essentially, we are sharing tips and tricks and events, things that are working well for us and things that have been challenging." 

Squamish's food bank now has more storage space, and a robust daily food rescue program, so it sends food to the other communities, which are more challenged with storage space, she said. 

Squamish sends about 50 to 100 pounds of bread to Pemberton each week, Borsuk-Gudz said. 

The Market, located in the new Under One Roof building, is a new, shame-free way of offering food to locals without feeling like it is accessing a social service. It is set up like a grocery store, where folks can choose what they want like anyone else. It is a pay-what-you-can service, Borsuk-Gudz explained. 

"It is something Whistler did before COVID," she added, noting that during COVID Whistler is operating a hampers-only program. 

Pemberton is heading in the market direction as well, she said. 

"We share similar software, we share similar client bases. The experiences of our communities tend to vary, but we try our best to stay in touch and keep our pulse on the work we are all doing so we can support communities to access the food that they need as seamlessly as possible." 

The food banks learn from each other, she added. 

Whistler has life skills programs that Squamish wants to start this summer, and Pemberton has a hamper delivery service to First Nations communities in its area that is inspiring, Borsuk-Gudz  said. 

"Food sovereignty is something that we are working on building here as well," she said. 

The best way for residents to help The Market is with financial donations, because the organization can stretch those dollars, but food donations — especially peanut butter, pasta and rice, kid-friendly snacks, and the like — are welcome. 

If people are able to donate baby diapers, formula, baby food, or adult diapers, those are always in need, too.

The Market is at 37871 Third Avenue.