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Pemberton food bank seeks donations in absence of annual fundraiser

Sea to Sky Community Services hopes to find a new home for The Gingerbread Project
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The food banks in both Pemberton and Whistler are seeking donations as we move into winter. <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">www.shutterstock.com</a>

It's well known that the holidays can be a challenging time for families, with food banks serving as a crucial resource for those in need.

And while donations are picking up, the Pemberton Food Bank will have to make due without the assistance of a crucial fundraising event, as The Gingerbread Project is not taking place this year.

The event, which has taken place at the Pemberton Valley Lodge for the past eight years, saw families bid on elaborate gingerbread homes that were donated by local Pemberton Valley businesses. The event raised between $10,000 to $15,000 annually.

"Yeah, it's a bit of a loss," said Loralee Seitz of Sea to Sky Community Services (SSCS).

"David MacKenzie [owner of the Pemberton Valley Lodge] has reached out to me to try and figure out a way we can continue it elsewhere.

"We hope to have something going forth for next year. I'm just not sure what it's going to look like."

In an email to Pique, MacKenzie said he was sad the hotel could no longer host the fundraiser, and would like to see another organization take it up.

"Unfortunately we no longer have the space and [are] suffering serious labour challenges, so I reached out to the community centre to encourage them to take it on with our help but it was not something they were willing to take the leadership on," he said.

"[I'm] very sad as I think the food bank is a very important charity that needs more community support."

The food bank was well stocked this past summer thanks to donations from local farmers and an arrangement with Stewardship Pemberton that saw freshly picked fruit donated.

It also benefits from an arrangement with a North Vancouver Salvation Army store.

"I have a volunteer that drives down once a month, in our food bank vehicle, and brings back a small van full of food from North Van," said Seitz, adding that the food bank is currently seeking protein-rich foods (think peanut butter) and easy-to-eat foods for children, such as granola.

SSCS offers an emergency food bank, with the public invited to contact Seitz at (604) 907 2014 or loralee.seitz@sscs.ca.

The public can donate to SSCS online at sscs.ca/programs/pemberton-food-bank.

The Pemberton Food Bank is open twice a month from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., at 1347 Aster St. Upcoming dates are Dec. 16, 30 and Jan. 13 and 27.

At the Whistler Food Bank, Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) executive director Lori Pyne said that what's needed most is fresh food.

"Money really is the best thing for us to get, because we have more buying power with the money," she said.

In 2018, the Whistler Food Bank, which sits in the new WCSS building at 8000 Nesters Rd., gave out food 2,773 times.

The organization also gave out 300 emergency food bags, which are distributed outside of regular food bank hours, last year.

This figure is double that of 2017.

According to Pyne, about 70 per cent of clients use the food bank one to three times, and the majority of people reach out due to illness or injury.

Pyne explained that the organization has moved away from using financials to determine who is in need and that it is not concerned about people abusing the system.

"If you are in need, you get food," said Pyne. "It is very low-barrier."

Donations to the Whistler Food Bank can be made in person during WCSS's office hours (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.) or online at mywcss.org/get-involved/donations/. The public can also donate at Whistler grocery stores in the blue and pink bins labeled "food bank." The Whistler Food Bank is open every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to noon.




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