The Salvation Army and Fernie Fresh are both doing their best to make sure no one in Fernie goes hungry. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

Food bank and Fernie Fresh offering alternatives to bare grocery shelves

It’s almost business as usual for the two essential food service providers amidst COVID-19

Even as Elk Valley grocery store shelves empty at an unprecedented rate as a result of the novel coronavirus, the Fernie food bank and Fernie Fresh Food Share are continuing to provide their essential services to the community.

According to Major Kirk Green, the Salvation Army Food Bank is staying open and does not anticipate any food shortages in the coming weeks. In fact, Green noted that the food bank hasn’t really seen the effects of the COVID-19 as of yet. He said that they haven’t seen any new faces attempting to use the service.

That being said, if the food bank does face increasing strain moving forward, Green said he would be sure to put a call out to the community for donated food. He also mentioned that they always have the option to go out and purchase food so that they can continue to provide essential food bank services.

Although the food bank hasn’t really been impacted by the ongoing crisis, Fernie Fresh is facing some small hurdles and has changed their hours and methods of operations to adapt.

“Fernie Fresh is remaining open with some slightly changed hours and processes,” said Green. “Fernie Fresh was Monday to Friday before and now it’s just Monday, Wednesday and Friday because we’re seeing just a slight decrease in the amount of product coming through the door, so rather than run it five days with a little each day, we thought we’d be better off to run it three days with a better offering.”

Fernie Fresh usually gathers many of their donations from grocery stores but with products flying off the shelves faster than stores can replace them, Green said there has been a downturn in product flow.

“Just the fact that the grocery stores themselves don’t have as much and sometimes the shelves are empty so the stuff that gets close to the date is actually less coming out the back door,” Green explained.

That being said, Fernie Fresh will keep their doors open as long as possible. They’ve instituted some new operating procedures to keep people safe.

“Prior to this people could come inside the building, they could sit and they could wait and congregate in the hallway. Sometimes we would get 50 or 60 people sitting there,” Green said. “We’re not doing that now. We’re not opening the doors until Fernie Fresh is in fact open and we are limiting the number of people who are in the building to six at a time. We do a full disinfectant also just to keep everybody safe – them and us.”

One way that local bars and restaurants can help to turn the tide on food donations is by simply giving the Salvation Army a call.

“We are aware that most, if not all of the local restaurants have shut down so if they have product that will not last through the shut down, please phone us and we’d be glad to pick it up.”

Although both food services run out of the Salvation Army’s Second Avenue location are still operational, the attached thrift store is not. All across Canada, Salvation Army thrift stores closed their doors in an effort to keep staff and shoppers safe. The Fernie location is protecting staff by not accepting donations at this time.

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With new protocols and procedures in place, the Fernie food bank and Fernie Fresh are still up and running. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

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