By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Nov. 10, 2012
On Prentice Geary’s arm is a phoenix, leaving a small mass of ashes behind as it rises from the fire.
He got the tattoo when he finished his nursing degree from Douglas College.
“It felt like a new chapter in life,” Geary said, laughing.
He’s not planning to get a tattoo for it, but on Sept. 25th, another new chapter opened in his life: He was elected to be the new president of the Squamish Food Bank Society.
Peary has been in Squamish for about 14 months, working for mental health and addictions services for Vancouver Coastal Health.
Who else is on the new board of the food bank?
I have been elected as the director. Besides me, there is Christina Rupp, Heidi Nielsen of the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, Rick McKinney of Helping Hands, Lois Wynne of Sea to Sky Community Services, Ken Pickering, Julie Buckley and Barclay Mayo.
Have you been involved with a food bank?
It’s a clichéd thing to say, but I was raised by a single black mom, and we used the food bank, and also volunteered with our church during Christmas preparing food hampers. As an adult, as a student, I had to utilise the food bank. I understand the importance of a food bank.
What are some the challenges we face here?
One big challenge is lack of a permanent location for the food bank. Our cold storage is a few kilometres away so the volunteers and the coordinators have to sort the food out a night before distribution.
So, ideally, we would like to store the food on site and in the long run be able to find a permanent spot for the food bank society.
What is the funding model for the food bank?
We apply for grants and then there are donations from the businesses and the public. We get $10,000 in funding from the district and then funding from the Whistler Blackcomb.
How is the food bank doing financially?
Donations are down by $14,000 in one year. In 2010, we had $49,000 from grants and funding, and this year, it was just under $35,000. Donations are down for a number of reasons, but economy is certainly one of them.
Who is using the food bank?
We have a wide variety of people who are using the food bank, people with disabilities, physical and mental health challenges, students, unemployed, seniors, working families, and low income individuals.
We are all two pay cheques away from the food bank. Sometimes people don’t have savings and they fall on hard times, and they don’t have anything. They need to draw on a social safety net, and that is why
People don’t have savings and they need to draw on the social safety net. That is why food banks are really important.
How healthy is our food bank at present?
Well, I would say there is a lot of potential to improve here. We are doing the best with limited resources that we have.
We are hoping the new board will be a catalyst for the change, because of our connections with service agencies. Karen Clarke, for example, has offered her assistance in grant writing.
We are encouraging the public to donate generously, and we are working on food donations from the grocery stores.
And I’d like to see it grow from a grassroots to a more formalised society with a permanent physical location.
I mean we all hope there would be no need for a food bank, but that is not the reality.