The CMS Food Bank in South Cowichan has had to close temporarily. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

The CMS Food Bank in South Cowichan has had to close temporarily. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Valley food banks reopen on a limited basis

CMS handing out hampers, Basket Society doing hampers and sandwiches

After closing temporarily last week, two Cowichan Valley banks are reopening this week to hand out hampers.

The Cowichan Valley Basket Society in Duncan shut its doors last week due to a possible COVID-19 contamination, and the CMS Food Bank, which serves Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake, also closed last week due to health concerns.

The CVBS reopened on Monday on a limited basis. It will hand out sandwiches between noon and 2 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, serving outside from the back loading deck. Hampers will be handed out between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Pick-up arrangements can be made at the food bank or by phone (250-746-1566) starting at 9 a.m. Phone calls are preferred.

The CMS Food Bank in South Cowichan announced on Monday that it will be giving out hampers in April, but only by appointment.

Clients will have to phone or email ahead of time to arrange pick-up of food hampers.

“We don’t want lineups here,” coordinator Traci Waite explained. “We want to avoid that.”

In addition, the food bank will not be accepting food donations at this time, although it will continue to accept cash donations on its website (cmsfoodbank.ca).

Food banks have to be ready for emergencies, but the COVID-19 pandemic was not something they saw coming.

“Talking to other food banks, no on was prepared for this,” Waite said. “We’re prepared for earthquakes, but not for this.”

One challenge they are trying to address is that many staples, like sugar, rice and oatmeal, are bought in bulk and portioned out by volunteers, but for health reasons, they can’t do that right now. CMS has also lost many volunteers, who have chosen to stay home. The average age of volunteers at the food bank, Waite estimated, is about 75.

Waite said she is “super happy” about the provincial government’s announcement on Monday of a $3-million emergency grant from the Community Gaming Grants program to Food Banks BC.

The situation may be changing daily right now, Waite said, but once the pandemic is over, CMS will resume normal activities.

“When we are back up and running and full steam ahead, we’ll be there for them,” she said.

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