Peggy Burton (front) and Rose Webber sort food at the Pictou County Food Bank.
Three days a week dozens line up on Granville Street in New Glasgow. Some are single, some have kids and some are seniors. Some have jobs. Many don’t. All are hungry.
For almost two decades, volunteer Tom Foley has seen these people come empty and leave with groceries to get them through a few days. It’s a cause he and the dozens of other volunteers who give their time to the cause believe in.
Each month the New Glasgow location of the Pictou County Food Bank gives out about 675 orders. In Pictou, at the Pictou West Food Bank, orders are given out as well.
Foley said the numbers are running about the same as last year and as usual it’s a busy time of year for the food banks. Thankfully they’ve found the support from the community is equally as strong as the need.
“This time of year we get a lot of our food,” Foley said.
The Tim Hortons food drive recently collected the equivalent of 34,000 pounds of food. Some was picked up during the New Glasgow Christmas Parade and more will also be collected at the Westville Parade of Lights. There are numerous businesses, schools and other groups that are collecting as well this time of year.
While it may fill the food banks to capacity, it’s all needed to help them get through the months of January, February and March, when donations drop off, but the needs remain high.
“You have to have this build up to carry you through the first three or four months of next year,” Foley said.
While the majority of their support comes from local donations, the food bank does receive some food through Feed Nova Scotia as well, which delivers food to them.
Once the donations are received, there are many volunteers who work to sort and package the food to be given out. Money that is donated is used to buy food on sale to fill in the areas that donations don’t meet.
There are currently more than 60 active volunteers. Foley said they are blessed right now to have a plentiful supply of people willing to give their time and have a waiting list for those who could step in if needed.
One of the longest volunteers is Phoebe Fraser, who thanks to her husband got involved. He had to stop after he developed Parkinson’s disease, but she has been helping out for more than 20 years.
While the primary reason people volunteer is to help others, Fraser said she truly enjoys volunteering and the people she’s met while working there.
“It’s a social thing and it’s a good work out too,” she said.
Among those sorting food, you’ll also find county councilor Deborah Wadden, who has been coming down once a week since she retired.
“I enjoy volunteering and it’s a way to help,” she said. “It’s well organized and well run. It’s a good organization to work for.”
For his own part, Foley said he got started through his church in Westville. At one time the food was actually delivered to those who needed it and he was part of the delivery crew.
It was later decided that they would have people come to a central location and despite concerns that some might not be able to make it, it worked well. A few years ago the food bank relocated to the Granville Street location.
There are no paid positions at the food bank. All the work is completely handled by volunteers.
For those who would like to drop off donations, the New Glasgow location is open on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 8:30 to 12 p.m.
Hunger in Nova Scotia
21,760 people assisted by food banks in Nova Scotia last year
32.0% are children
-7.6% change, 2012 to 2013
+28.6% change, 2008 to 2013