Aldergrove Food Bank manager Mary van Zuuk, 68, is still working hard with a team of local volunteers to provide free groceries to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

Aldergrove food bank still lending a helping hand during COVID-19 pandemic

The food bank’s donations rose by 75 per cent in the past week, says manager

Aldergrove Food Bank continued to serve individuals and families of the community on Tuesday morning, despite widespread closures due to COVID-19.

Only this time, as it will be in upcoming weeks, 68-year-old manager Mary van Zuuk and assistant manager, Tannis Percival, were wearing surgical masks and gloves.

They helped patrons outside of their building fill out forms requesting what they need and prefer, and transported the slip inside, where the bulk of their volunteers filled the orders.

Both managers fall into the “older adults” category – warned by Canada’s Public Health Agency as people with the highest risk of complications if they are infected with COVID-19.

But “imagine if the supermarkets were to close, imagine how some of us would feel,” said van Zuuk, explain the team’s motivation behind continuing to service the needy people of Aldergrove amidst a pandemic.

“Most of our volunteers are 70 years of age or older,” van Zuuk said.

All of them showed up on Tuesday – with the exception of those who had travelled or are immunocompromised, from underlying illnesses that could significantly impact their survival chances upon contracting the virus.

Once the food orders were completed, along with a meal to-go of hot soup, a cheese bun, and pastry, volunteers handed people their weekly bags through a side door.

The team redesigned the food exchange process to limit people’s contact with one another, which is usually close as patrons pick food items from an aisle inside the Aldergrove Vineyard church.

RELATED: Aldergrove food bank ‘blown away’ by winter donations

Only 10 per cent of its patrons were kept from coming on March 17, which van Zuuk said is likely because they are self-isolating.

The food bank serves 60 local families, amounting to around 130 people including individuals and homeless patrons.

Many of those who were there to receive support were “relieved we were open,” she said.

“A crisis brings out the best and worst in people,” van Zuuk said.

Her and her team are feeling supported by the Aldergrove community more than ever before, with a reported 75 per cent rise in FreshCo donations during the past week.

Food donations, through a $10-per-hamper program at the store have gone from $120 dollars worth to $200 in the past week.

“We’re so happy. We have faith,” she said.

The food bank is located at 27309 Fraser Hwy. and serves groceries Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Those in Aldergrove looking to sign up for assistance can call 604-857-1671.

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