Brockville and Area Food Bank partners with local non-profits to expand home delivery

Sarah Dodgson of Senior Support Services puts a box of food in her car for home delivery. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

A new collaboration has formed in Brockville, Ont. between three non-profit organizations, with a plan to create a more accessible food bank by expanding home delivery.

The Brockville and Area Food Bank originally started a home delivery program during the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting users with the stay-at-home order. 

"Once that stay-at-home order ended we realized we didn't have the capacity to continue with 20-30 orders of home delivery a day so we'd have to end that program," said Brockville and Area Food Bank Executive Director Hailie Jack. 

"But in ending it, we reached out to other organizations that were either already helping with food insecurity or wanting to get into helping with food insecurity," she added. "(They) often noted these problems over COVID with their visitors and clients."

Jack says the food bank and Girls Inc. of Upper Canada have been collaborating since May 2021, helping to serve some of their visitors, and purchasing food for visitors who might not attend the food bank. 

"It started as a way to get food out into the community," noted Lesley Hubbard, Executive Director for Girls Inc. of Upper Canada. "We had a snack grant that we hadn't been using because we weren't seeing girls in person during the pandemic, so we had some funding."

The duo began a grocery program where they made a basket of food to send out to girls that were using the program. 

"(We) work with girls between the ages of 6 and 18, and our criteria is that there has to be a girl between the ages of 6 to 18 in their household," Hubbard said. 

"When that grant was exhausted, we realized that it wasn't going to be a short-term program," she added. "There was still a need, and it was a very valuable service to girls and their families. At that point, we had a conversation on 'where do we go from here?'"

During the pandemic, Senior Support Services (CPHC) had also created their own COVID grocery program, which ended in April 2022, according to Sarah Dodgson, Volunteer Engagement and Community Relations with CPHC. 

"Hailie reached out to us at such a great timing," Dodgson said. "It was a great opportunity to partner together and really ensure that our seniors are cared for."

With the three non-profits now working together, they are delivering upwards of 75 boxes a month filled with fresh produce, meats and canned goods across the region. 

"We're all trying to serve our visitors the best that we can and I think between the three of us we are really able to master our home delivery program," Jack said. 

"We as the Brockville and Area Food Bank serve Brockville and Area, we have limited boundaries, but Girls Inc. and CPHC are able to reach those borders within the Lanark Leeds Grenville community."

"We've seen that yes, absolutely, there is a need," Hubbard said. "It's making a difference for local families, helping to alleviate some of those difficult choices that families are forced to make when they don't have enough food and they are facing food insecurity."

"The first month I think we had 11 families, most recently we've had 35-36 families a month," she said. 

Dodgson says her agency is doing around 22 deliveries a month, with room to grow. 

"Everybody seems super happy to get them and it just really reduces that challenge of them making their way to the food bank, whether it's mobility challenges, fighting that stigma of going to the food bank or transportation challenges," she said. 

Dodgson noted players for the Brockville Braves hockey club volunteered to make deliveries in the month of April, and will continue to do so next fall. 

"We have volunteers who have stepped up, as well as staff for the summer months," Dodgson said. "We also have our coordinators reach out to the seniors that we are delivering to, to see if there's any services they don't know about that could be a benefit.

"Collaboration of all community partners is really what helps to meet the gaps of the community," she added.

Jack says the food bank saw a 28 per cent increase in people visiting in 2021, and they expect that to rise, with a six to eight per cent increase in the price of food expected in 2022.

"We are anticipating for many years to come, there to be continued increase as people recover from the pandemic, emotionally and financially," she said, praising the collaboration. 

"Without your help we would not be as successful as we are, and I'm really proud that three non-profits in a small community can come together to make this work." 

Jack also noted that recent food donations have slowed down, and a food drive will happen this weekend at the Shop the Street event downtown. 

"We have a wonderful team here who's very welcoming and just loves our community," Jack said. "People come through our doors maybe in tears, maybe upset, ashamed or frightened to be here for the first time and they often leave with a smile on their face, full cupboards at home."

"(We're) trying to break down that stigma. You should not be ashamed to come here. It's an incredibly difficult time in peoples lives right now and we are here to support you, however, we can whether that just means for one month or for multiple months, emotionally and with your food needs," Jack said.