The Surrey Food Bank’s Executive Director Marilyn Herrmann (left)

Christmas in July returns

Surrey Food Bank launches fresh-food campaign online

O come, all ye faithful, and help the Surrey Food Bank (SFB) this summer.

The non-profit society has resurrected its Christmas in July program and taken it online as it expands purchases of healthier foods to meet the changing needs of its clients.

There are 14,000 people served each month – 40 per cent of them children – and the need continues in the hot weather months when donations tend to dwindle.

While food donations are always welcome, the SFB is seeking more money to buy baby formula, protein, meals-in-a-tin, soups, milk, eggs and rice – the latter undergoing a worldwide shortage and price increases. Through bulk-buying arrangements with grocery chains, each dollar donated to the food bank can buy $3 worth of food.

“We buy $10,000 worth of formula every six weeks to feed  200 babies a week,” says SFB Director of External Relations Feezah Jaffer.

That number is growing, as the SFB has 87 babies waiting to be born among its clients.

For the first time, the SFB is also buying bulk carrots and potatoes on a regular basis.

“We’re adamant that our clients receive good food that’s as healthy as possible,” says Executive Director Marilyn Herrmann, who adds the food bank disposes of – at some cost – a lot of expired food that is donated.

“We had a can here a couple of weeks ago from 1999,” recalls Jaffer. “That’s the record-holder right now.”

She notes that despite the good intention of donors, clients deserve respect and should not be expected to eat expired food any more than the donor’s family would.

“If you allow us to do the purchasing, we can do it in a much more thoughtful and effective way,” says Herrmann of cash donations.

Unlike the previous Christmas in July program, which ran annually until several years ago, the SFB is asking for online donations only – handled in-house by development manager and social media guru Katrina Albert.

This time around, SFB volunteers won’t be standing outside grocery stores asking for donations. Instead, donating is a few clicks away.

Herrmann says the old system wasn’t effective over time, and was unpopular with some store owners and customers.

It’s also unrealistic to expect people to carry change or small bills these days, she adds.

The money raised in Christmas in July will go directly to food purchases. Regular and corporate donations of money will continue towards other operating costs.

The SFB has an annual operating budget of between $1.3 and $1.4 million, well up from $1 million just two years ago.

The food bank makes many of its bulk purchases at Fresh St. Market (owned by H.Y. Louie) in Fleetwood, and has a continuing relationship with the Overwaitea Food Group and Safeway and other stores.

The SFB continues through its programs to assist more vulnerable members of the population, including babies, people with mobility issues, new Canadians and seniors.

Following renovations last year, the food bank now stores a part of its not-perishable goods offsite.

With the increase in space available, food bank clients are served inside, and are offered more – and healthier and fresher – choices in the foods they can take home.

“It’s almost like a grocery store,” says Jaffer.

The summer, she adds, is a good time to focus on online donations, since people can be out of town and still donate.

“Hunger has no season,” says Jaffer. “If you’re hungry, you’re hungry.”

The Surrey Food Bank is located at 10732 City Parkway.

For more information about the Christmas in July program, contact Katrina Albert at events@surreyfoodbank.org or 604-581-5443 or visit http://bit.ly/1JHsHuw