New West community groups are coming together to host the Everybody Needs to Eat Community Grocery Challenge from July 1 to 24. During this time, community members are encouraged to donate healthy food to local food hubs and to think more seriously about community food security.
Everybody Needs to Eat reusable grocery bags are now being used at the food hubs in New West as a way to decrease costs and to reduce the amount of plastic going out into the community, said Betina Wheeler, one of the project’s coordinators.
“We are also providing them to community members who would like to support the challenge,” she said.
On Thursday, July 8, more than 200 Everybody Needs to Eat bags will be given out at the New West Farmers Market.
“Community members can use them for their shopping and they will also be provided with info on how they can fill the bag to support the local hubs,” Wheeler said.
The bags are also being given out at the food hubs and at other events in town. They’re also available by contacting Wheeler at email@example.com.
How can I help?
The most needed and requested food items needed at food hubs in New Westminster are: whole grain foods (oatmeal, high-fibre cereals, quinoa, couscous or barley); pasta and rice; meat (canned tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey); beans/nuts (canned and dried beans or lentils, nut butters, unsalted nuts); hearty soups and chili; canned fruit and vegetables (free of added sugar or sodium preferred); and Walmart or grocery store gift cards, which allow people to purchase specialty items not available, such as those needed to meet dietary or cultural needs.
Other items that are needed include: baby supplies (food, formula, diapers and wipes); pet foods; and hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products and Depends.)
Organizers ask that people avoid donating expired food items because they cannot be used.
“We encourage community members not to provide highly processed foods with high quantities of salt, sugar, or preservatives,” said a notice about the challenge. “Items like KD may be comfort food for some, but they don’t have a lot of nutritional value and also require milk and butter to prepare.”
Where do I take my donations?
*St. Aidan’s Food Hub oversees weekend Don't Go Hungry food hubs for the West End, Sapperton and Queensborough neighbourhoods. You can drop off donations at 1320 Seventh Ave. on Saturday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m. or call 604-836-8400.
* St. Barnabas Food Hub serves the uptown and Brow of the Hill neighbourhoods. You can drop off donations at 1010 Fifth Ave. on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon or call 604-526-6646.
* Holy Trinity Food Hub in downtown New West accepts donations on Wednesdays from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at 514 Carnarvon St. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior to the pandemic, the New Westminster Homeless Coalition Society and New Westminster Community Food Action partnered and received funding from the City of New Westminster to implement the Community Food Security Action Plan. Wheeler was contracted as the project lead, and Fraser Health became a partner in the project.
“The Community Voices group was formed to receive feedback from those with lived experience in food insecurity to inform the work we were doing,” Wheeler explained. “I worked with Deanna Tan Francoeur from Fraser Health to facilitate the group. They helped develop the messaging – including the Everybody Needs to Eat branding that now represents the Community Food Security Action Plan – and the communication materials we are now using to engage the community.”
As part of the COVID emergency food response, Wheeler said the city, in partnership with the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition Society and the New Westminster Ministerial Committee, received federal funding to support the development of neighbourhood food and information hubs.
“A lot of the food-specific COVID federal food funding expired at the end of March, and now the hubs are reliant on access to recovered and donated food to keep feeding those in need in the community,” Wheeler said. “Even with a gradual reopening happening, food needs are not decreasing in the community.”
In addition to the food hubs that are supported by this initiative – St. Barnabas, Holy Trinity and St. Aidan’s churches (including the pop-up at Knox Presbyterian Church and the Queensborough Community Centre), the Salvation Army, Aunt Leah's and the Purpose Society are also continuing to support those in need, Wheeler said.
“The grocery challenge is a way to combine these two pieces of work by getting much-needed supplies into the food hubs and reaching out to the community to think beyond emergency food and start generating ideas that will have us looking at innovative and creative ideas to address community food security,” she said.
For more information, contact Betina Wheeler at email@example.com.