Feezah Jaffer is the executive director of the Surrey Food Bank. (File photo)

Whalley

COVID-19: Surrey Food Bank rises to meet challenge but real test is yet to come

Executive director says donors, staff and volunteers are rallying but next few weeks will be critical

Despite being one of the most challenging times in its history, donors and volunteers are triumphantly rising to the occasion at the Surrey Food Bank – but the next seven days or so will be a true test of its mettle.

“What’s really been heartening has been the monetary donations that have been coming in,” said executive director Feezah Jaffer. “But we’re also getting a lot more calls from clients saying, ‘can we register because we’re getting laid off.’

“We’re going to see an uptick in numbers in the next couple of weeks for sure.”

Jaffer said with restaurants either closing down or being ordered to switch to take-out only, donations of fresh produce and dairy have been strong, but she expects that to change within the next week.

“Next week it’s going to be interesting to see what our donations look like because that will be the true test of what is happening,” she said.

Jaffer while things like canned fish and meat, pasta and pasta sauce, along with baby formula are in high need right now, cash donations are most welcome. (Click here to donate.)

“Of course, money always goes farther because we can go directly to the farmers, directly to the suppliers to buy those items as well.”

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So, what’s life like for staff and volunteers at the food bank these days?

“So much has changed,” said Jaffer. “We’re really working hard to keep the guidelines around physical distancing and we’re down to a skeleton crew of volunteers and staff.”

All off-site depots have been closed and hours at the food bank in Whalley have been adjusted, she added.

Plus, in the spirit of social distancing, the food bank is limiting the number of clients entering the building to five at a time.

“Everybody’s wearing gloves; we’re sanitizing everything, our volunteers are keeping distance from each other, our staff is keeping distance from each other.”

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Regular distribution is 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Our seniors distribution, after this week, we’re going to be folding them into our regular time, we’re not going to stay longer, and then our evening distribution, we’re going to be suspending that,” Jaffer told the Now-Leader on March 16. “I want my staff to be safe as well so I’m going to let them go home early.”

Jaffer said the time dedicated to seniors, alternate Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., is being temporarily suspended.

“Starting April 1, we’re going to fold them into our regular time, still on the Wednesday.”

Despite all the changes and challenges, Jaffer says the morale is “actually pretty good” at 10732 City Parkway.

“My staff has been amazing,” she said. “This has really tested us because every day is different. But everyone has really rallied together to keep this going. There has been a lot of anxiety but a lot of camaraderie and good vibes.

“People have really come together.”

– With files from Tom Zytaruk



beau.simpson@surreynowleader.com

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