An intimate look inside the Revelstoke Food Bank – Part 3

Randy Gribble loads food for distribution. Gribble is a long-time volunteer at the Food Bank and says that his involvement with the Food Bank has helped him grow as a person. Laura Stovel photo

By Laura Stovel

Randy Gribble stands alert at the bottom of a temporary ramp leading down the stairs below the Legion Hall into the Revelstoke Food Bank, waiting for a box of tinned food to hurtle down at him. When it comes he swoops it up and loads it on a trolley.

“I’ve grown a lot” through my involvement with the Food Bank, he said. Several years ago Gribble came to the Food Bank from a community referral and he’s been volunteering there ever since.

That’s how it seems to be with Food Bank volunteers: people start when there’s an opening and they stay for years.  It’s clear that the Food Bank offers much more than food: it offers a positive and safe social environment that allows people to contribute and to belong.

Tim Butcher, who does pick-ups around town and then pitches in to fill hampers, started when the Food Bank’s delivery person asked him to fill in for him. “Here I am, four years later,” he said proudly.

Butcher picks up soup from Mountain Meals on Thursdays, bread from La Baguette (and sometimes The Modern Bakery) on Fridays, and then he picks up a load from the Food Bank warehouse. He, like many others I spoke with, mentioned the huge gap left after the PT Market closed as that store donated produce generously. “That had a huge impact,” Butcher said. “The PT Market is really missed.”

At the back of the room, Lynette Percher organizes books for Food Bank clients. A shy

Lynette Percher organizes books for Food Bank clients. She describes the Food Bank as "like my family." Laura Stovel photo

woman, who describes herself as a “hermit,” has been volunteering just over a year. “This is like my family,” she said.

Like many – though not all – Food Bank volunteers, Percher also receives food there. Between her disability pension, the Food Bank and help from her mother, she just gets by. “My mom is my savior,” she said. “Because from what I get from disability, I’ve got to pay rent, bills, and I have a cat.” Her situation points to the challenges of living on a disability pension and the need for either greater pension support or strong community help.

Gladys Dyer (left) and Deb Thibeault measure out coffee. Deb, a recent volunteer, has a longer connection with the Food Bank as she organized food donations when she worked at the PT market. The PT market is hugely missed as a donor to the Food Bank. Laura Stovel photo

At another table Gladys Dyer and Deb Thibeault measure coffee into plastic bags. Dyer has volunteered at the Food Bank for many years while Thibeault started only for months ago. “I used to work at the PT Market and was in charge of packing the Food Bank produce,” she said. “I like to give back because I’ve been so blessed in my life.”

When the Cooper’s shipment arrives the packaging begins. The monthly food hampers are filled with fresh produce, bulk dry goods are packaged, and Food Bank coordinator Patti Larson keeps track of it all.

But Larson is worried. “For the first time that I can remember our cupboards are bare,” she said. The Cooper’s shipment is not a donation. “We spend $3,000 to $4,000 a month on food, depending on what our needs are.” The Food Bank alternates between buying from Cooper’s and from Southside grocery stores. Cooper’s sometimes donates some close-dated items and both stores host some programs but otherwise food has to be purchased. That’s why community donations are so important.

In a comment on the first of this three-part series on the Food Bank, Larson noted ways in which people can donate, including donating Save-on-More points at Cooper’s, using the $2.00 coupons at Coopers and Southside, and donate food in the bins at these stores. However, Cooper’s is not yet ready to receive Save-on-More points. They anticipate that they will be ready to receive points next week.

Patty also wrote, “Watch for the Nourish Soup specials at Coopers… it is a great product to donate… a complete meal in one tin! I will be at Coopers on May 25th from 4 – 5pm to promote this special item. Visit our website to see our newest campaign “Feed the Future – Help our Hungry Children.”

You can donate in person, online with a one time or an ongoing donation.

Here are a couple of photos of other volunteers at the Food Bank:

Tim Butcher and Rorry Bradbury load up hampers with fresh produce. Butcher has been volunteering with the Food Bank for more than four years. Laura Stovel photo
Linda Banks (left), Louise Wilson (center) and Cathy Murphy prepare bags for the monthly hampers. Laura Stovel photo