There is nothing more nourishing than sitting down and enjoying a good, wholesome meal with the folks you love. But what about those who are nervous about where their next meal will come from?
Hunger haunts individuals and families unable to afford enough food to eat. In small communities like Bowen Island, we naturally think of our less fortunate neighbours, especially at this time of year when giving –and the need for help –runs high.
Unfortunately, in B.C., food insecurity affects more than 10 per cent of households with children under the age of 18. Bowen Island is no exception.
According to a Canada Institute for Health Research project, food insecurity is “the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.”
Statistics Canada started measuring the problem in 2005 and found that in 2013-14, more than four million Canadians were living in food-insecure households.
About 22 years ago, Wendy Reid, then minister of the United Church, saw a need emerging on Bowen Island. Reid, along with islander Angie McCullough, decided to take action. Under the wing of the Little Red Church, they created the Bowen Island Food Bank.
Angie made certain that the door to the vestibule into the church would always be open to those in need of food. They could just help themselves. “Unfortunately,” Angie reflects, “over the years, the need has grown too.”
Angie has had to cut back her time at the Food Bank but other volunteers have stepped forward. “We now have a beautiful Trojan of a woman named Sue Clarke taking the lead and it’s going really well. It’s filled most every day,” Angie says.
Sue is the one who keeps the food bank’s shelves stocked. “People generally donate money, often leaving an envelope at the Phoenix – people have been very generous with their donations,” she says.
In addition to canned goods, Sue puts fresh produce, eggs, cheese and cold cuts into the fridge. Meat is placed in the freezer daily, along with bread from The Ruddy and soups from the Soup Fairy.
Sue mentions that the need goes up in the cold weather when some folks don’t work as much. And that emergency food vouchers are also available and can be used at the General Store. Two other programs that help answer the need for nutritious affordable food on the island include, a bi-weekly lunch program and Christmas hampers.
Lunch is offered at the Royal Canadian Legion on Scarborough Rd. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. For only $5, volunteers serve up a choice of hearty soups, bread, coffee, tea and dessert. It’s not only a nutritious meal but a social time as well.
December’s lunch program is a little different says Colleen O’Neil of Caring Circle who administers the program. There’s a special $10 Christmas lunch this year on December 11 and you need to call the Caring Circle to pre-register. The second Tuesday always falls near Christmas, so it is skipped and the regular schedule resumes in January.
The lunch program is grant-funded and supported by many hands and organizations, including the Caring Circle, Seniors Keeping Young (SKY), The Little Red Church, The Legion, and Snug Cove House.
The Bowen Island Christmas Hamper Fund is an annual drive started more than 40 years ago. Linda Pfeiff, one of the half-dozen women involved in the charity, says that Christmas Hampers serve about one percent of the Island’s population, including families, seniors and single people.
According to Linda, the hampers are mostly distributed at Christmas time, however, they also step in to help at other times of year when needed. Monetary donations are being accepted at Artisan Office Services and tax receipts can be provided. Filled with all the fixings for a turkey dinner, plus toys and gift certificates, the Christmas Hampers are a holiday tradition worthy of support.
As you can see, there are many ways to share your spirit of giving on Bowen Island. But, if this is a year when you or your loved ones find themselves in need, you now know where to look and who to call for support.