Food bank looking for stability

Uncertainty remains the name of the game for the Lake Cowichan food bank.

Uncertainty remains the name of the game for the Lake Cowichan food bank.

It is at present being housed in the Town of Lake Cowichan’s Mildred Child Annex on a 10-month contract, but that ends Oct. 14, forcing the food bank into a month-by-month situation.

Betty Sanddar, food bank group chair, addressed the town council’s finance and administration committee Sept. 8, saying she was very concerned about how the uncertainty would affect the food bank’s people and operations.

Part of the reason for the short term contract is that “we’re unsure of the future of that building,” committee chair Coun. Tim McGonigle told her.

“We’re doing an assessment of all our buildings.

Sanddar said, “the food bank needs stability, a place of security. Month-to-month is a constant looming hammer on us.”

The situation has changed, too, she said.

“When we were allowed to move into the building it was stated that we would share the building with the bylaw officer and the building inspector for a short time until they moved to the Ranger Station. Now that [ranger station] was listed for sale and that is why they could not or would not allow the food bank use of that site when we asked for it.”

Sanddar asked on behalf of her group for a three to five year lease.

Even as it is, the Mildred Child Annex, located as it is beside the town office on South Shore Road, has its good and bad points, she said.

On the pro side, the facility is easily found, right in the centre of town, and has only a few stairs at the entry.

The $1 annual rent means the food bank saves $1,800 a year, too.

However, it is not wheelchair accessible, requires an up-front insurance payment of $1,300, offers limited space for storage or even distribution with little privacy to users, has no water or washrooms, no refuse or recycling and no air circulation as the windows do not open, making it brutally hot in summer.

McGonigle admitted on behalf of his colleagues that “there is a great need for the food bank.”

Sanddar said she and her committee have explored every possibility in the area looking for a new site but have not been able to find a location that would allow for the storage space and some of the food bank’s other needs.

“We’re not even at the stage where someone has said, ‘Yes, we could accommodate you,’” she said.

Mayor Ross Forrest assured Sanddar that at least the group wouldn’t be turfed out overnight.

“Things aren’t going to happen in 30 days,” he said, promising to let the committee know as soon as the town has any updates on what is happening with the annex.