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Whistler Food Bank's Foodworx raises $3,825 and 996 lbs. in food

Squamish and Pemberton short of supplies
Food banked Jackie Dickinson of Whistler Food Bank with Foodworx donations. Photo by Cathryn ATkinson

The Whistler Food Bank raised $3,825 and 996 pounds in food donations at its annual Foodworx Business Challenge, which is now an integral part of the Crankworx Mountain Biking festival.

Jackie Dickinson of the Whistler Community Services Society said that with just six participating organizations, they were delighted with the results.

"This is the fourth year that we've done Foodworx. What happens is we get lots of donations around Christmas time and Easter... what we thought is that it would be great to do a fundraiser to raise awareness in the community and generate some money and donations in the summer," Dickinson said.

Crankworx became a partner in the scheme, donating the use of a tent that was located on The Stroll in Whistler Village, from Aug. 15 to Aug 18. Volunteers told visitors and residents about their work.

"It's a great way to raise awareness with people that we do have a food bank in our community. Some people are surprised," she said.

One discovery was making contact with homeowners who visit only on weekends.

"They say, 'You know what? We only come on the weekends and we over buy and are left with food that is unopened that we haven't used.' Or someone is here for three weeks and they have food and they want to donate it somewhere."

The donations will help them feed the 50 or so people currently using the food bank, half of which have small children, she said. She expects the numbers to grow to around 150 people during the off-season between summer and winter, when more people are laid off. In fact, this jump in numbers is what compelled the food bank to take part in Crankworx in the first place.

"We see an increase in the use of the food bank in the late September-October period, and in April and May. People are relying on seasonal work," Dickinson said.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler raised the most money and the most food from onsite donations: $1,684 and 240 pounds; Food Worx tent donations topped $1,420. Other food and cash donors included the Whistler Real Estate Company, Delta Suites, The Four Seasons Hotel, Remax Real Estate, and public donations of food at Nesters and Whistler Library.

"The success really relies on our volunteers and the businesses that take part in the business challenge," said Dickinson.

Meanwhile, the situation to the south in Squamish is the exact opposite. They are out of food, desperate, with fears that the next food bank day on Sept. 5 will be its last for the immediate future.

With 400 people, one third of those being children, given food aid twice a month, Squamish Food Bank president Susan Newman is under pressure. The state of the economy is to blame, she said.

"I have never seen it this bad, not here. Everybody's hurting," Newman said.

"We do have some cash due to come in, so we will be open on the 5th, but how much further I don't know."

When asked what her options are, Newman despondently responded with, "Other than closing down?" She said she hoped media attention would bring in money and food donations.

There will be a hotdog sale in Squamish this Saturday, Sept. 1, at Save On Foods and the food bank will shortly start their Thanksgiving food drive, asking for donations from householders.

In Pemberton, food bank coordinator Louise Stacey-Deegan said they help 200 to 250 people every two weeks, excluding emergency drop-offs in between.

"Christmas is great for us for donations, but not the rest of the year."

The Pemberton Food Bank purchases most of its food, raising money by applying for grants.

"Everybody is finding it hard. So many people are living pay cheque to pay cheque," Stacey-Deegan said. "There are so many out there who are homeless and hungry, and children don't stand a chance."