Biking for bread

It's the colder holidays that typically remind us of those in need. Christmas and Hanukkah, Easter and Thanksgiving, Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah; those are the times we think of the less fortunate, not the fruit-and-veggie laden months of summer.

This collective warm weather forgetfulness of charity makes it difficult for Sea to Sky food banks to keep their shelves stocked in the summer months, even though the demand for their services is increasing across the board.

"You get a whole bunch of donations in winter, which is great, but trying to make those last over the year is very difficult," said Sara Jennings, WCSS food bank coordinator, who worked in conjunction with the Whistler Centre for Sustainability to create the annual Foodworx program three years ago. "In fact, at this stage, with the number of users we have, it's not possible."

To keep the food bank shelves flush, Jennings and organizers at the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) took matters into their own hands, tapping into what is considered something of a holiday (at least a hell of a celebration) in Whistler. July's annual Kokanee Crankworx draws thousands of people to town, an influx that didn't escape the WCSS.

"Crankworx happens to be right in the middle of summer so we can align ourselves with them when there are lots of people in the village and lots of people excited about it and it kind of makes it a fun, more interesting thing," said Jennings. "The first year was small but quite successful and it was seen as a good community outreach program by having the table in the village to explain to people what we do and why we do it. Then last year was totally great and even bigger."

Foodworx is comprised of two components: a business challenge and a tent in the village that focuses on raising awareness and money for programs through the sale of raffle tickets. Tickets can be purchased with money or by donating food items.

"Most people don't wander through the village with a can of soup so mainly it's through monetary sales," continued Jennings. "And (also) quite successful has been our business challenge, getting businesses to compete to be Foodworx champion. The businesses seem to have great fun competing against each other, even when it's smaller businesses that won't necessarily be able to compete with some of the larger ones with more resources and more people."

The business challenge pits similarly sized businesses against one another in an effort to secure the most donations. Last year around 20 businesses joined in the challenge and Jennings is hoping even more will get involved this year.

Thinking outside of the box is becoming more necessary for the Whistler food bank, where annual numbers are doubling and donations aren't meeting the need.

"I think it's good to try different things all the time and align yourself with different markets, Crankworx draws a lot of people and a wide range of people to Whistler and brings a lot of locals into the village at one time and so anytime we can take that opportunity to inform people about what we do helps to raise awareness which then increases the likelihood of people knowing what we do," said Jennings. "On our next open day we are likely to surpass our 2010 numbers entirely and that's pretty much what's been happening over the past few years, by summer we are at the numbers we had the year before. It's been something that has been really challenging so we've been working with other partners in the community to figure out what is going on and how we can improve the situation for the lower income brackets in Whistler."

Businesses interested in joining the Foodworx business challenge can get in touch with Jennings by calling 604-932-0113 or emailing her at foodbank@mywcss.org . Donations can be made online at www.mywcss.org/food-bank or by dropping a cheque or food off at the WCSS office at Spruce Grove Annex, 7328 Kirkpatrick Way.




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