Orangeville Food Bank moving to new home on Commerce Rd.

May 15, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Council has provided further financial support to the Orangeville Food Bank as the local non-profit organization prepares to move into a new home. 

During a teleconference call at Monday night’s virtual Council meeting, Heather Hayes, the local food bank’s executive director, estimated the organization will be moving into a new location at 3 Commerce Road on June 1. Notably, for the first time in its 28-year history, the Orangeville Food Bank will be owners, rather than renters, at their new facility. 

“On April 15, we took ownership of the building, through the support of a long-time donor. This is a huge undertaking for a not-for-profit, but we’re confident this will help us build capacity to better serve our neighbours,” Ms. Hayes said. “We will be carrying a mortgage for the first time ever, but our payments are equal to what we were paying in rent, only this way we will be building equity month over month.”

Staff and volunteers have been busy renovating the new space over the past couple of weeks – work that has been made possible following donations by various community supporters and sponsors, including the Town itself. Back in April, Council provided $10,000 to the food bank to assist with additional costs incurred due to the COVID-19 crisis. On Monday, Council donated another $3,000 to cover the cost of a demolition permit ($200) and building permit ($2,280) at the new site on Commerce Road.

It has been a testing couple of months for Ms. Hayes and her team, who have had to adjust their practices on an almost daily basis in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“COVID-19 has been a life-changing experience for all of us. Change often brings with it challenges and opportunities, and like everyone in frontline support there have been long days, worries, changing processes, problem solving, minor crying fits and constant checking in to make sure we’re getting it right,” Ms. Hayes said.

“For the first time in many people’s lives, they’re having to access the food bank. It’s something they never thought they’d have to do, but that’s the reality of our situation right now. We have seen a 70 percent increase in the amount of new individuals accessing our services in April 2020 when compared to April 2019,” she added. “We know this is an event that will have long lasting effects on people’s finances.”

While the Orangeville Food Bank outgrew its existing facility on Centennial Road long ago, the need for a new facility was only exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.

“We have been looking for a home that will allow us to increase our storage capacity and build equity in a building for many years. The pandemic increased the need for more cold storage, and for having the ability to accept skids of dried goods to ensure we have a stable supply of food for community members in need.”

In the meantime, until the move can take place, Ms. Hayes says the Food Bank is committed to the Dufferin Food Share initiative, which it helped to launch back in March. The idea of the Food Share is to provide a single access point for delivering food to clients all across the region, reducing the risks of contracting or spreading COVID-19 amongst clients, staff and volunteers. The initiative is run in conjunction with the Salvation Army, the County of Dufferin, the Grand Valley Food Bank, the Café, and several local churches. 

“We knew we had to come up with a response to how we’re going to provide food for individuals, because our regular shopping model just would not work under the current circumstances,” Ms. Hayes said. “We decided to touch base with all of our community partners to see who would be willing to come together to form one group to provide a one-stop shop for people in the county to ensure they have an adequate supply of food in a non-contact way.”

She added, “It’s important now more than ever that we eliminate struggles people have getting food in our community.”

The Dufferin Food Share does have a shelf life, however. Ms. Hayes admits it will run until such a time that the Food Bank can continue its normal operations. She says operations will continue at the Salvation Army location until at least July, while work is being done to ensure a drive-thru like service can be established at the facility on Commerce Way in the event that a second COVID-19 wave hits the community later this year.

“We want to make sure we have a plan for that eventuality,” Ms. Hayes said.

With the Food Bank now on the cusp of making the move to its new location, Ms. Hayes reserved special praise and thanks for all of the volunteers and supporters who helped the local non-profit survive and thrive over the years.

“All of this would not be possible without the kindness and generosity of this amazing community. COVID-19 will pass, but until this does, we are so lucky to walk down this road together. My deepest thanks to everyone who has helped make the Orangeville Food Bank what it is today,” Ms. Hayes concluded.

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