In addition to the regular duties of providing immediate assistance of food for those in need, Red Deer Food Bank Society staff members are still attempting to get their Kitchen Project up and running.
The Kitchen Project is an initiative within the Society to bring an industrial style kitchen facility into the Red Deer Food Bank in order to host educational programs in addition to current services.
This project would also allow the catering and barbecue crew – the main fundraising source for the Society – their own space to engage in more events.
“There are community kitchens that exist in our community which are wonderful organizations that do very well. We believe offering this program here at the food bank, where people are coming already and where they know us and we know them, is very important,” said executive director of the Society, Fred Scaife.
“We will be able to earn almost a third of our annual operating budget with that kitchen here, because it helps our barbecuing and catering crew. We’ve done a number of weddings this year and other events – we’re not just restricted to barbeques. We’ve done full meal service for weddings and things like that. There is good money to be made there for us, because we can get a lot of that food donated.”
To complete the project the Society has been seeking financial donations to help cover the actual cost of renovations. Scaife said that the Food Bank Society has a great deal of food donations, but monetary donations come less frequently.
“We don’t so much suffer from donor fatigue, but there is the issue that there are a lot of worthy groups vying for the same community dollar. That money is getting harder and harder to get,” he said.
“I think it’s imperative that we use the resources we have to raise our own money. There are a lot of charities that don’t have the ability in the regard that we do. Earning our own money is a huge benefit to having that kitchen here.
“Money isn’t coming in as fast as it could but we’ve got enough food to last well into the next food drive.”
The Red Deer Food Bank is also an asset to nearby communities. Through the Reclaimed Goods Program, the Red Deer Food Bank Society takes food from grocery stores that is close to expiry, imperfectly packaged and sometimes perfectly new, and is able to bring that food to the community.
“A flat of soup with 12 cans on it – if it comes into a grocery store and one of the cans has a dent on it, they don’t even bother putting it out. That whole flat then goes into the Reclaimed Goods Program, and comes to us. So there’s one can with a dent and 11 perfectly good cans,” explained Scaife.
When the facility receives a surplus of a specific items, they contact a number of neighbouring food banks to distribute the excess.
“Recently, we received 7,000 lbs of cheese in assorted forms, and immediately when we received that we contacted a number of smaller, surrounding food banks – Lacombe, Blackfalds, Innisfail, Rocky Mountain House, Ponoka. All of them came in and took a portion to give it to their clients,” Scaife said.
“When we get an opportunity to do something like that at the food bank, when we’re able to give them something that they may not be able to afford, that makes us feel really, really good.”
Scaife said that the service area of the Red Deer Food Bank through the Reclaimed Goods Program is approximately a 22,000 sq. km. radius.
It includes communities from Rocky Mountain House east to Stettler and from Olds to just south of Wetaskiwin.
“That program works tremendously for us. Not only is it a benefit to our clients, but when you consider that we deal with almost 800,000 lbs. of goods through that program – that’s a tremendous environmental savings because most of those goods would have been thrown out if not for the program,” Scaife said.
“That program is fantastic and really helps. It’s something that clients can access with little or no trouble at all.
“We are also very lucky to have the generous citizens of Red Deer. In my 18 years here I am always amazed at how the community can respond when we put out a plea for something.”