The Better Together food drive resumed in-person operations for the first time in two years and celebrated its 17th year by collecting more than 43,000 pounds of food.
Terri Smith of the Moose Jaw and District Food Bank is thrilled that the 17e The annual Better Together food drive was held in person and volunteers could once again pick up food donations.
“It was wonderful to see everyone back at the expo site (and) everyone coming together, and to see so many familiar faces from two years ago and so many new faces, so that was really great to see,” the COO said Nov. 1.
Nearly 400 volunteers buzzed around the convention center on Halloween night after a two-year absence. Helpers took on many roles, such as sorting food, bringing donations to tables, packing items, stacking them on pallets, and cleaning up afterwards.
“It’s organized chaos when this food drive happens – and it’s just awesome,” she said.
Two tractor-trailer trips were needed to deliver the 38 pallets of donations – totaling 43,345 pounds – to the food bank’s 270 Fairford Street West a day later. Collecting food typically generates 38-50 pallets, which usually totals close to 50,000 lbs.
There have been no in-person food drives for the past two years due to the pandemic. Instead, residents could donate money to the nonprofit organization.
The food bank’s new building is more spacious than its previous Northwest Third Avenue location, so it can easily accommodate more pallets, Smith said. In previous years, she and other staff were stressed after food drives due to the small size of the old building; this year, they are quiet.
Deann Little, volunteer coordinator, also appreciated the “fabulous” new size of the building, pointing out that staff could store 33 pallets in one area.
Smith thanked his partner Hillcrest Apostolic Church, the community and volunteers for their support of the cause and appreciated the presence of his colleagues.
“It was great fun and I hope to see everyone next year,” she added.
In the past, the organization would stretch its donations for nearly 12 months, as long as other food drives — like the CP Holiday Train — were taking place, Smith said. However, this duration may no longer be possible as the food bank has distributed more than 400 baskets since January.
“This year, almost the minimum seems to be 400 and climbing, so that concerns me a bit because it’s 50 or 60 baskets more than what we normally use or what we can manage,” said Smith, adding The Food Bank also helps other organizations in need by passing on excess food.
The food bank has changed the way it records the baskets it distributes, she explained. For example, it distributed 618 baskets in January based on 410 orders. Some families received more or more baskets depending on the size of the household.
This gives the organization a better idea of how much product it uses – 1,800 cans of soup or 2,000 cans of Kraft Dinner – and the total number of basket boxes that come out.
July was the lowest month for baskets given out, at 320 — that was the pre-pandemic average — but Smith attributes that to people receiving federal carbon tax and GST rebate checks that month . So they bought their own food and didn’t need the food bank.
Meanwhile, March was the highest month, with 472 orders and 720 baskets distributed.
The food bank helps between 700 and 900 people a month – a third are children – although it helped 1,476 people in September.
“So that’s a record. We’re actually starting to hit record numbers,” Smith said, noting that the nonprofit used all monetary donations from the last two food drives just to survive 2022.
Smith hoped this food drive would get the organization through the next six months; that’s why the charity relies on other food drives.
“These little food drives are extremely important because they are what carry us from week to week,” she added. “So no matter how small you think your food drive will be or how unsuccessful you think it was, any food you bring in or any monetary donation you bring in is a success.”