Food bank adopts targeted approach to volunteer search

Matt
Matt Gardner
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The Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank is seeking to increase the role of volunteers in its day-to-day operations.

Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank co-manager Wes Clark stands beside a shelf full of food hampers to be distributed to hungry families. The food bank is actively seeking volunteers to help cook meals, make hampers and organize food distribution.

A call for volunteers sent out on Monday indicates that the food bank is adopting a more targeted approach in its efforts to find help.

“Probably with all non-profits, we all struggle for core funding … and it doesn’t really exist, so we’re left to our own devices on things like coming up with dollars,” co-manager Wes Clark said.

“So we’re trying to move more towards a volunteer model beyond what we already do … Specifically, what we’re trying to do is involve more people on a volunteer level for specific things.”

Volunteers already play a key role in day-to-day operations at the food bank, which currently has only three staff members in the forms of its cook and two co-managers.

But with growing numbers of people using the food bank, staff members are hoping to expand their volunteer base.

“We’re at a point where we could hire all kinds of staff if we had the dollars to do it,” Clark said. “So we’re trying to get volunteers more targeted, and we do have some. The Latter-Day Saints come in on Wednesdays and they make hampers -- that’s huge for us. Now we’d like to try and fill some of the other days.

“We have some teachers that come in on Mondays and do hampers, so we’re trying to enhance that.”

The Prince Albert food bank’s current volunteer search is based in part on its need to cover its own costs.

“We’re not about to close our doors,” Clark said. “But it’s getting harder and harder to get funds, definitely. That’s a big motivator.”

Funding for the P.A. food bank comes largely from community donations. A major resource is the Northern Lights Casino, the non-profit arm of which buys fresh vegetables for the food bank’s two main programs.

One issue for the P.A. food bank is the presence of two major food programs. Unlike most food banks in the province, the P.A. bank has a kitchen attached to it to feed people directly as well as giving out food hampers.

Like many non-profits, the majority of Saskatchewan food banks serve dual purposes as a means of offsetting costs. The Regina food bank including a learning centre and dabbles in property management, while the Saskatoon food bank contains a friendship centre.

We’re not about to close our doors, but it’s getting harder and harder to get funds, definitely. That’s a big motivator. Wes Clark

In putting out the call for volunteers, Clark noted that the food bank is mindful of the competitive environment for fundraising among non-profit organizations in Prince Albert.

“When it comes to funding, it’s tough,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are … The hospital does fundraising and everyone does, and they’re all important services. Obviously if I get hurt I want to be able to utilize the hospital … I believe in the SPCA’s fundraising or anybody. They’re all vital and important in our community.

“The problem is we all need funds for our operations, right? So we’re trying to say, we realize all these organizations in the community are super important … We’re going to try and minimize our footprint by trying to move more towards a volunteer model, is basically what it boils down to.”

The food bank is seeking volunteers in three specific areas.

First are cooks to help provide meals for the food bank’s Share-A-Meal Program. Every weekday at 3 p.m., the program serves between 100 and 150 people.

“I’m sure there’s people out there that love making soup and different things and might be willing to come in once a week (and) come make the soup for us,” Clark said.

Next up are volunteers to help make food hampers for hungry families. Currently, the food bank distributes between 600 and 700 food hampers each month.

“People that are interested in getting food out to people -- well, come pick a day out of the week and come make hampers,” Clark invited.

Finally, organizers are needed to help keep food flowing to those who need it. Each year, the Prince Albert Food Bank distributes 200,000 pounds of food.

Anyone interested in volunteering can stop by the food bank (mornings are preferred since most programs take place in the afternoon) or contact Clark or co-manager Kerry Ramsdell by calling 306-763-5040.

Organizations: Prince Albert food bank, Northern Lights Casino, P.A. bank

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Prince Albert

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  • wes clark
    July 15, 2014 - 11:36

    One small oops to correct. Saskatoon Food Bank has a resource and learning centre. The friendship centre is a group of churches and non profits that serve meals to the hungry in saskatoon.