A food program launched in response to COVID-19 is now feeding nearly 500 people every weekend.
St. Aidan’s Presbyterian Church launched the Don’t Go Hungry weekend food-support program in the West End in May, with the program later expanding to three other neighbourhoods. It’s now offered at Knox Presbyterian Church in Sapperton, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Queensborough and Gordon Presbyterian Church in the South Burnaby.
While a number of food programs exist for folks who are able to pick up hampers on weekdays, Don’t Go Hungry began as a way of helping people who may work during the week and are unable to access emergency food supports.
“Before COVID, our anticipated outreach was 30 families from our own West End community,” said Rev. Laurie McKay-Deacon of St. Aidan's Presbyterian Church. “To have grown so quickly to meet an expanding need has been bittersweet – thankful that frankly any program through the church could grow in this age, but sad that so many people are food insecure.”
Each weekend, community members pick up free food hampers that contain dry goods, meat, dairy, bread and produce.
“The biggest surprise has been that most of our volunteers and community/business partners are not church people because our folks are in that aging, vulnerable category,” said McKay-Deacon in an email to the Record. “So many young people have shown compassion to their neighbours, regardless of age, income, or circumstances.”
McKay-Deacon said the program has enacted many precautions, such as masks, distancing, sanitizers and other processes, to keep people safe.
“We are all just people doing the best we can in this uncertain time. I am proud that those who receive food also volunteer. The line between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are separated by one or two paycheques,” she said. “As someone who has just moved into the neighbourhood in February, I am feeling the impact of an incredibly compassionate community, including business and political leaders.”
Align Construction, a New West-based commercial general contractor and construction manager firm, recently contacted St. Aidan’s to see how it could support the Don’t Go Hungry program.
“When I asked for insulation to line the studded walls of the then laundry room, they replumbed, rewired, put down new flooring, opened up the doorway to accommodate dollies, installed industrial shelving, installed a kitchen sink, and created a rolling counter. They also donated a fridge and freezer, many diapers and baby wipes, as well as formula,” Deacon said. “Their generosity to the New Westminster community enables the St. Aidan's Food Hub – along with our three other sites in Queensborough, Sapperton and South Burnaby – to feed now over 460 people each Saturday. Businesses like this need to be recognized and applauded.”
Deacon said the Align Construction’s contribution ensures the St. Aidan’s Food Hub’s “store” is functional, clean, and food/user friendly.