By Donna Duric
The brand-new Six Nations Food Bank has opened, just in time for Christmas.
Located on Cao Lane, across from the Jay Silverheels Compex, the brand-new food bank has enough space to serve the needs of the community after outgrowing its old location.
“We were outgrowing the site and needed more room,” said Mary Monture, Chair of the Six Nations Food Bank.
The food bank was previously located across from the community hall on Fourth Line Road, but it was old and they needed a new building.
Now, thanks to a grant from the Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Corporation, and some fundraising, the $500,000 building is up and running.
Economic development donated $327,000 to the new building. The rest was raised through fundraising.
Workers were busy hauling in donations and stocking shelves the week before Christmas to have the new food bank open for Dec. 19.
The board has been working on getting a new food bank built for over a year.
“Once we got the economic development funding and we started our fundraising we started to break ground in July and here we are today,” said Monture.
Construction was completed on Dec. 6 and workers spent the next few weeks getting it ready to serve Six Nations people right before the holidays.
The old building didn’t have enough space to accommodate community need.
“We were outgrowing the space with community need,” said Monture.
The food bank serves roughly 188 families a week. Community members come in every Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to pick up what they need and pay a $5 fee for the service. All that’s needed for eligibility is a status card.
“We expect more now that we’re within walking distance (of social agencies on CAO Lane),” said Monture. “The elders can walk here so I expect there will be more.”
She said the $5 fee is usually waived from mid-December to January to give people a break during the Christmas season.
The new building not only has more room but they’re meeting safety standards now, too, she said.
“We don’t have to fix anything. We can start fresh, start anew. We meet all regulations. Our concentration now can be on purchasing food and serving the community.”
Operating funds come from Six Nations Elected Council and the Six Nations Community Trust.
“They provide us funding for food,” said Monture. “Not as much funding to cover all the costs but that’s where our donations and our fundraising comes in.”
Baskets of food are given out based on the number of people in the family. The baskets contain a lot of canned goods, pasta and other non-perishable items. Each week, visitors are able to pick up a loaf of bread as well.
They rotate weekly in offering things like meat, eggs, dairy or fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We cannot afford to hand all of that out every week,” said Monture.
The food bank also has items like baby supplies, hygiene products, pet food and cleaning products, but those aren’t always available.
The food bank relies on community donations for those extras.
“That’s not in our budget. Our main budget is our necessities. If we get it in, we’ll hand it out. If we don’t have it, we don’t have it. We have some very good donors. Excellent donors.”
The food bank is open to all community members. They do not have to provide income statements proving a need to use the food bank, as food banks off-reserve require proof of income for eligibility.
“As long as they have a status card, we don’t judge,” said Monture. “I don’t know what happens inside their house. It’s not for me to judge. We take you at your word.”
She said the food bank is always open to accepting donations of hygiene products, baby products, cleaning supplies, and pet food.