To support vulnerable British Columbians as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the Province is providing a $3-million emergency grant from the Community Gaming Grants program to Food Banks British Columbia.

Food Banks BC will distribute the money among food banks provincewide to support their immediate needs to buy and distribute food, pay employees and cover other costs essential to the delivery of their food programs.

The grant would cover approximately 100 foodbanks across the province, and locally, the Salvation Army Food Bank in Prince George.

“Normally, how a food bank runs is that we rely on in-kind donations and cash donations from the community,” said Salvation Army Spokesperson Neil Wilkinson.

“Right now there are no incoming donations because everyone is self-isolating, as they should be. So, we don’t have any incoming canned goods or dry goods and we are needing to buy in bulk which is the most efficient way to keep the food bank stocked,” Wilkinson added.

According to Food Banks BC, it will assess the needs and requirements of food banks to determine the amount and timing of the distribution.

The grant to Food Banks BC is in alignment with the ministerial order issued March 26, under the Emergency Program Act, making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters.

“We are noticing a sharp decline in our donations (…) our biggest challenge is keeping the needed resources in the food bank to keep up with demand,” explained Wilkinson.

The order removes barriers to business to allow drive-through and delivery opportunities, larger hampers, increased home delivery capability and removes the requirement to present identification.

“We just placed a two-week order and that came to about $18,000. So we will be going through $40-50 thousand a month in food orders just to keep up with the current supply,”  Wilkinson said.

The organization hasn’t seen an increase in people accessing services, but Wilkinson expects that to change.

“We are anticipating that as people’s personal expenses accumulate and their personal funds decrease, we are anticipating maybe two or three weeks down the road an uptake in numbers,” he adds.

These steps are part of the government’s $5-billion COVID-19 Action Plan to provide income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services.

“One of the things we are acutely aware of when you have $3-million, and roughly 100 member food banks, that works out to roughly $30-thousand per food bank,” said Wilkinson.

“For us in Prince George that is one and a half orders of food, so it’s a really needed resource, but we need to keep people in the understanding that food banks are still relying on donations in order to keep afloat during the Covid response.”

The Salvation Army in Prince George serves about one thousand households, or 3,500 people in a one month period according to Wilkinson.