BARRHEAD - The Barrhead Food Bank will have to become certified.
At least if the Barrhead and District Family Community Support Services (FCSS), which operates the food bank, hopes to utilize the additional grant funding opportunities.
That is what FCSS executive director Karen Gariepy told the Barrhead Leader why the not-for-profit society is working toward getting its Food Banks Canada official food bank accreditation.
To get the certification, the Barrhead Food Bank must prove it is adhering to the Operational Excellence guidelines that the national organization recently released.
The good news, she said, is that FCSS has until the spring of 2025 to receive its certification.
Food Banks Canada is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping Canadians facing food insecurity by supporting a network of provincial associations, affiliate food banks, and food agencies that work at the community level to relieve hunger.
"It will take some work, and some costs are involved, but I have applied for a grant that, if we are successful, will cover the majority, if not all, of the extra expense," Gariepy said, adding most of the costs will come in the form of wages to help bring in a part-time staff person to help implement the changes. "I think they are bringing it in to ensure that food banks across Canada have a high level of service."
She added that, in most cases, the Standards of Excellence guidelines are things the food bank already does. However, they still need the accompanying documents, most notably the associated policies and procedures.
"For instance, we monitor the temperatures in our freezers, make sure everything is sanitized, and take the necessary steps and precautions when repackaging food, but we don't always have the paperwork that goes along with the action," Gariepy said.
In the summer, Gariepy told County of Barrhead councillors that food bank usage had levelled off and perhaps was even on the decline.
Unfortunately, she said the trend seems to be rising again, adding that the food bank served 200 individuals in October with the help of 16 volunteers and more than 147 volunteer hours.
Another trend the food bank is noticing is the increase in the number of seniors on fixed incomes.
Gariepy said she does not expect to see the trend reversing anytime soon, with the continued high food and utility prices that will only compound during the colder winter months.
The added stress on the food bank comes when donations are dwindling.
"Our donations from January to now are low compared to previous years," she said. "We are seeing what the strains of the economy and inflation are having on our regular donors. They are still donating but not as much as they used to because the cost of living has increased so much, and they are feeling the impact as well."
This is why Gariepy said she is always on the prowl for grants to offset the donations.
She added that FCSS has been fortunate to find grants in the last year to fund the equipment upgrades in the food bank.
"All the shelving, equipment, refrigerators, freezers, everything has been paid for via grants," she said. "Our operational for food bank this year has also been funded through a grant, so all the [community monetary donations for the food bank] we receive goes straight to food."
Gariepy also said she is hopeful they will receive a transportation grant allowing FCSS to purchase a cargo van, making it easier to pick up food from other community food banks.
She noted that the food bank goes to Parkland Food Bank weekly to pick up excess food and makes a monthly run to the Egg Hub.
"We are facing difficulties, and the food banks are, in a sense, one big community, so when one of them tells us they have extra food, we rush down to get it," Gariepy said.