For the second time in just under two years, thieves have cut the catalytic converter from a Ford 450 refrigerated van belonging to Sources Langley food bank.
A frustrated Jaye Murray, Sources program manager, said the theft was discovered Monday, Aug 17 and likely took place over the preceding weekend while the vehicle was parked in front of the bank at 20445 62nd Ave.
“I don’t know why people pick on food banks,” Murray told the Langley Advance Times.
“It just leaves us scrambling.”
Usually, the van is stored off-site behind a locked fence, but it was moved to the food bank so the driver could make an early start that Monday, Murray explained.
Murray said the van is a “huge part” of a food rescue program that collects still-fresh produce from local stores for distribution.
For now, the food bank must make do with its two remaining vehicles.
As of Sunday, Aug, 23, the van was still sitting in a repair shop waiting for an ICBC inspection.
Murray said the deductible on their coverage is $300.
Back in November of 2018, the food bank had to pay the deductible for the converter and the cost of repairing a fence that was breached while the Ford F450 was parked in the back of the food bank’s fenced property in South Surrey.
Staff noticed the theft when they were about to put a Sources advertisement wrap on the new vehicle.
In March, Sources suffered the theft of a smaller food bank van which was recovered, minus its catalytic converter.
Metal thieves target converters because they use precious metals to reduce engine emissions.
In one recent incident in Delta, sometime between the evening of Thursday, March 26 and the morning of Tuesday, March 31, someone cut a hole in the fence of a business on Annacis Island and cut the catalytic converters off of four ambulances that were parked there while undergoing maintenance.
Loss of a key vehicle comes as the number of people requiring food bank help is rising.
Murray estimates there has been a 10 to 20 per cent increase in people seeking assistance from the Sources Langley food bank during the pandemic, which has shut down or forced cutbacks by most employers.
That, Murray said, wasn’t as big as they had expected, and is likely due to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the federal government’s $500-a-week COVID-19 benefit program.
However, that program is winding down, and is now expected to expire on Sept. 27, when changes to a new “simplified” EI system are scheduled to come into effect.
When that happens, Sources is bracing for a surge of clients.
“I think when the financial support goes, we’re all [food banks] going to get hit,” Murray predicted.
Sources Langley has extended its hours as of Monday, Aug. 17, and is now open to clients Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (where it previously closed at 3 p.m.) and from Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
It is operating under COVID-19 restrictions, with people asked line up two metres apart, food items pre-bagged and larger than normal, and distributing through the door instead of having clients entering the building.
Anyone with information about the theft of the catalytic converter from the van is asked to contact Langley RCMP at 604-532-3200.