Several agencies in Port Alberni have teamed up to provide meal services to the community’s most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bread of Life Centre, which normally feeds Port Alberni’s low income and homeless seven days a week, was forced to close its doors earlier this week (March 16, 2020), citing health concerns for its volunteers and guests from the COVID-19 outbreak.
A daily meal pickup is now available at Port Alberni’s Salvation Army—the site of the city’s Community Food Bank—with food prepared in the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)’s commercial kitchen.
“We [at CMHA] have trained staff here and minimal people,” explained CMHA executive director Katrina Kiefer. “[The Bread of Life has] a lot of vulnerable people volunteering there. They couldn’t guarantee they could keep their volunteers and staff safe.”
CMHA, the Bread of Life and the Salvation Army—with some support from other agencies in town, including the Port Alberni Shelter Society and Literacy Alberni— are working to keep Port Alberni’s most vulnerable population fed throughout the outbreak. Bagged lunches are built in the CMHA kitchen, then delivered to the Salvation Army to be picked up by clients. Staff and volunteers will also be putting together hampers and have been coordinating with the local Backpack Program, which helps to feed elementary school students and their families.
“We’re seeing a lot of anxiety around food security,” explained Kiefer. “Especially from people living in poverty, who aren’t able to stockpile.”
Agencies are now looking to the local community for donations.
“We’re looking for anything we can make sandwiches with, or anything we can put in a lunch bag,” said Kiefer. “Things like granola bars, protein shakes, canned meat. We’re trying to stay away from candy and things like that and focus on nutrition.”
Donations of toiletries and cleaning supplies—like toilet paper, dish soap, hand soap and hand sanitizer—are gladly accepted. Kiefer said she is also looking for gloves, masks and gowns to help protect volunteers and staff.
The CMHA called a meeting last week to create a working group to look after Port Alberni’s homeless and low income population during the COVID-19 outbreak. Kiefer is still reaching out to other agencies in town.
“That’s our intent, to coordinate services to make it easier and safer to access,” she explained. “We’re coordinating all our efforts through one access point—the Salvation Army.”
Kiefer is also hoping that an outreach delivery program can be set up for the hampers, but she wants to make sure proper safety measures are in place first.
Other agencies in town who are interested in helping out can reach out to Kiefer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, toiletries and toilet paper can be dropped off at the Salvation Army (4835 Argyle Street) every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cash donations can be made out to Bread of Life Port Alberni online at portalbernibreadoflife.weebly.com or through email transfers: email@example.com.
Daily meals can be picked up at the Salvation Army seven days per week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are no restrictions on these meal services.