Captain Michael Ramsay of the Salvation Army with some of the food that has been donated by the community for COVID-19 response. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

Alberni’s COVID-19 response team steps up food delivery as need increases

Nearly 2,000 meals handed out in past two weeks to city’s vulnerable population

Port Alberni agencies are shifting to a delivery-based system for the community’s most vulnerable as the need for food and hampers grows during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-March, Port Alberni’s soup kitchen, The Bread of Life Centre, was forced to close its doors due to health concerns over COVID-19. Several agencies in the community—including the Bread of Life, Salvation Army, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Port Alberni Shelter Society and Literacy Alberni—teamed up to start providing daily meal services for the community’s homeless and low income residents.

The meals are cooked and prepared in CMHA’s commercial kitchen, then delivered to the Salvation Army for pick-up.

Captain Michael Ramsay says the daily meal pick-up has been serving 100-200 people a day, and the number is climbing every day.

“It’s worked out to a thousand people per week,” he said. “We had 286 yesterday (April 8).”

READ MORE: Port Alberni agencies feed those in need during COVID-19 outbreak

Although the daily meal service started out as purely takeout, Ramsay says organizers are shifting as much as possible to a delivery-based system to reduce contact with vulnerable people. Earlier this month, organizers started delivering hampers with non-perishable food, personal hygiene kits and kids’ activities to people in isolation. When it comes to serving the community’s homeless, who may not have a deliverable address, Ramsay says they are still working out the details.

“We’re taking all kinds of precautions,” he said. “We’re trying to protect the people we’re serving as much as possible.”

These precautions include a screen on the front desk at the Salvation Army and protective gear (face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer) for all volunteers. When it comes to deliveries, volunteers avoid knocking on the door and use a phone to contact people.

“We’ll leave the hamper out front, and watch to make sure they pick it up from a safe distance,” he explained.

The response from the community so far, he added, has been “wonderful,” with plenty of people stepping up to volunteer or donate supplies.

“This is a wonderful community and the need is growing quite a bit,” he said.

Non-perishable donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army. There are also a few places people can send monetary donations:

If you are interested in volunteering, contact the Salvation Army at 250-723-6913.

“We’ve been working very closely with Canadian Mental Health Association, the Bread of Life and others,” said Ramsay. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a blessing to be able to help out.”

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