In October, families in the Smith area will receive food boxes from a Canadian ‘food rescue.’ The Métis Nation of Alberta Region 5 office is also distributing these packages throughout the Lesser Slave Lake region.
“It’s nice that our area is getting some benefit out of a federal program like that,” says Gentle Ben Care Society coordinator Ruth Reay. “It’s called Second Harvest. It’s a food rescue program.”
With COVID, restaurants and hotels are buying less of some types of food, so this food would be thrown out. Instead, the federal government has given Second Helping funding to buy this food and distribute it to communities across Canada through local organizations.
“In our area,” says Reay, “there’s a lot of people who have been hit by COVID.” When she sent out the call in September, 80 families in and around Smith applied for the food box.
The Smith food hasn’t arrived yet, but will be delivered frozen or refrigerated to downtown Smith. The October box has tuna fillets, eggs, a potato casserole, and fries.
Gentle Ben’s also has a voucher program for people who can’t afford to buy groceries in the Smith area. The vouchers are for the Mirror Landing General Store. This came out of a food hamper program it did in July and August. At that time, it sent out 53 food hampers a week to families in the Smith area.
This program was originally started by the Smith School in June as an alternative to the in-school food program it usually runs.
As early as March 30, Gentle Ben started COVID-19 specific support for Smith. At the time this was grocery and pharmacy pickup. This is no longer offered in Smith, but is available for Flatbush and Canyon Creek, Widewater, Wagner.
“It’s been a busy time, but I’m pretty happy about how things have gone,” says Reay. Gentle Ben has been supporting seniors and others in Smith and area since 1980.
In Slave Lake, the Slave Lake Food Bank is run by the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre (SLNFC). It didn’t take part in this program, but has recently seen an uptick in clients.
“We’re definitely busy,” says SLNFC executive director Barb Courtorielle. “I figure our Christmas hampers will likely be a lot more.” She’ll be working on the details for this in the next while. At the moment, the food bank doesn’t have a big need for donations. The food bank recently received a few large ones and are expecting some grants.