John Poston (right)

Thanksgiving food drive will help local food bank

Organizers of BCTFD aim to collect 8,000 pounds of food

It is perhaps one of the simplest food drives you could imagine.

Between Monday and Wednesday this week (Sept. 16-18), the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive (BCTFD) dropped off flyers and donation bags at homes along routes throughout Mission.

The flyers indicate the collection day, which is Saturday, Sept. 21. All you have to do is fill the bag with a donation of non-perishable food items and place it on you doorstep before 9:30 a.m. on the designated day. Then Jackie McRae and other local volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will pick up the donations and bring them to St. Joseph’s Food Bank (SJFB) on Seventh Avenue.

It’s a family activity for us, said McRae, who coordinates the event in Mission. “Forty to 50 families deliver the bags and pick up donations.”

Last year the group collected about 4,000 lb of food and would like to see that number doubled this year.

John Poston, SJFB executive director, says donations from the BCTFD will help tide them over until at least Christmas when another push for donations usually arrives.

“If it wasn’t for the BCTFD, we would not have enough food,” said Poston, who noted he is getting many new registrations this year.

In 2012, the SJFB filled 3,100 hampers which serviced 5,800 Mission residents, including 100 infants aged 0-2 and 2,000 children aged 3-17.

“This year the need will be equal or greater,” Poston added. “Last week we had 17 new registrations.”

Those who register with SJFB go through the facility, currently located behind St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish, once a month to pick up food. It takes at least two dozen volunteers to organize the monthly event which services at least 200 people.

Baby food is always in demand. Tomato sauces and canned fruits and vegetables are high on the list too.

If your donation is missed, please bring it to the SJFB, said McRae. SJFB is part of Food Banks BC and Food Banks Canada.

This B.C. food drive was inspired by a similar event in Calgary that started in 1997 when Jeffrey Jacob set out to rally his friends and fellow church congregants in taking on the challenge of fighting hunger in his neighbourhood. The method was straightforward and very effective: they asked their neighbours to leave food donations on their doorsteps on a designated day, then gathered them up and delivered them to the local food bank.

The project expanded over the years, and in 2008 Calgary’s drive set a world record, collecting more than $1,000,000 in support for the hungry in a single day.

The B.C. drive picked up on Jacob’s great idea and brought it to this province in 2009. Now in its fifth year, the project includes dozens of partner organizations and food banks serving some 50 cities throughout British Columbia.

The BCTFD is non-denominational and open to all interested individuals, community groups, religious organizations, businesses or others who wish to help attend to the needs of the hungry.

BCTFD executive director Andrew Rolfson said he had a lot of work the first couple of years getting the B.C. drive going but now it’s taken on a life of its own.

“It’s been really something,” Rolfson said. “The volunteers out there are amazing, it’s really taken off. It’s been a great experience.”

More than 7,000 volunteers are expected to be helping out this year, and the B.C. drive aims to collect about 400,000 pounds of food in just four hours for local food banks.

To protect against fraud and other abuses, the BCTFD conforms to Food Banks British Columbia’s code of ethics, which specifically means they do not collect or solicit cash contributions door-to-door.

For more information visit http://bctfooddrive.org/.

– with Chris Bryan files

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