From trepidation to tremendous response, the experience of the Kamloops Food Bank could serve as an interesting case study when post-pandemic studies are done regarding generosity amid a sudden crisis.
It has been noted in previous columns on this page that many organizations were overwhelmed with donations and volunteer offers as the economy crumbled in the first few months after the pandemic was declared a year ago this month.
That overwhelming generosity followed initial fears for the very survival of the various non-profit agencies.
Central among the conversation in the early days of the pandemic was the stability of the supply chain, which led to much discussion of food security and autonomy.
Well, the food security of others seemed to have been on the minds of many during the pandemic as the Kamloops Food Bank reported a significant increase in quantity — and quality — of donations.
Executive director Bernadette Siracky said when the pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020, followed by temporary closures of restaurants, there was serious concern for the future of the food bank — and the impact its absence would have on those who rely on the agency.
Instead, the food bank was the recipient of an unprecedented amount of food, from shuttered restaurants that had perishable items that would otherwise have gone to waste, from farmers with excess product and from average residents who wished to help with the food security of those in need.
“It really was a countrywide effort to support food security,” Siracky said, noting the donations to food banks across Canada came from people and companies and farmers and producers from throughout the country.
In particular, Siracky said, the food bank in Kamloops received more cheese, more eggs, more milk and more yogurt than ever before, thanks to an initiative from the BC Dairy Association. The group last April made $150,000 available for food banks to buy dairy products from local producers.
Locally, for example, the Kamloops Food Bank was able to purchase product from Blackwell Dairy.
“During the first few months of lockdown, our clients were getting healthier food,” Siracky said. “There seemed to be a hyperfocus on basic needs. I think people stopped thinking of luxuries and realized the need for basics.”
As for the why behind what many saw as an unexpected increase in donations?
Well, think of the person whose poor lifestyle choices lead to a brush with mortality that jars them into choosing a healthier path going forward.
Siracky believes many donors saw the economic and social impacts of the pandemic and realized, perhaps for the first time, that they, too, could easily be among those relying on the food bank.
There but for the grace of God and all that.
“I think a lot of folks who use our service were looked at, maybe, by others without judgment,” Siracky said.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to awaken something inside us. For all that we hate about this damn pandemic, perhaps we can offer a sliver of thanks for COVID-19’s role in allowing some of us to get reacquainted with our compassion.