By Frank Bucholtz/Special to Aldergrove Star
For close to 30 years, Aldergrove Food Bank (AFB) has served the needs of the community – and with inflation, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and housing challenges, the needs are growing.
It is one of three food banks that serve Aldergrove-area residents. The Star recently profiled the Sources Aldergrove Food Bank, which has served Aldergrove since the spring, and a third food bank operates from the Church In The Valley, at 23589 Old Yale Rd.
Mary van Zuuk, who manages the food bank from its storefront location at 27524 Fraser Hwy. (in the Countryside Mall), has been involved since 2014.
Her predecessor was involved for 28 years.
She explains that AFB was started by an individual in the early 1990s. When this person realized just how many challenges were involved, she contacted the existing Langley Food Bank for assistance.
It took over running AFB, which has always maintained an Aldergrove location and focused on serving Aldergrove residents.
Langley Food Bank, under director Jim Calamunce, handles the financial part of operating AFB, and cash donations are directed to it. It also pays for the AFB’s rent, insurance, heat, and telephone service.
Meat and dairy products are supplied to AFB by Langley Food Bank, which has a facility on 203rd Street in Langley City.
AFB accepts donations of non-perishables directly at its facility, and much of the food it supplies is donated locally.
A big source of donations is from customers of the nearby Freshco store.
Van Zuuk said more than $8,000 worth of food, from pre-packed grocery bags, which can be bought for $5 or $10 at Freshco, has been donated this year.
This allows clients to get healthy food from the various food groups, she said, very appreciative of the support from Freshco and its customers.
The demand has grown steadily this past year, from 50-60 families last year to 70-80 this year.
About half are single people and the others are families, she explained, noting clients come in and make selections of the food that they need.
Clients tell van Zuuk that the rapidly-increasing cost of food and higher rents have placed significant challenges on them this year.
The other two food banks report the same situation for their clients.
Because it is well-established and in a prominent location, AFB has a strong core of volunteers. About 25 to 30 people are available to help out on distribution days.
“We thank the community for their donations. Freshco in particular has been a wonderful help,” she said.
In addition to the Freshco donations, this year’s Christmas parade is expected to generate a lot of donations for the food bank.
Aldergrove Food Bank will be collecting donations from the community at the Christmas Light Up Parade on Saturday, Dec. 10. Food bank volunteers will be on hand from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the parade location in downtown Aldergrove. The parade begins at 6 p.m.
Food is distributed each Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Clients register with the food bank and must live in the Aldergrove area. New registrations from people living in Aldergrove are welcomed. The storefront opens Tuesdays and serves coffee, sandwiches and soup, starting at 10 a.m.
Some clients in Aldergrove use more than one food bank and van Zuuk does not see that as an issue. People’s need to obtain healthy food is very important, and she supports that.
More information is available by calling 604-857-1671.
The Church in the Valley food bank is a ministry of the church, and operates on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Clients register and must be from the Aldergrove-Langley area. It serves about 80-95 families per week, and demand there has grown substantially since the start of COVID-19.
The church office can be reached at 604-514-8335.