A commentary by the senior director of the Mustard Seed Street Church.
COVID-19 has brutally affected Greater Victoria’s low-income families, members of our street communities and seniors. Getting meals to people unable to leave their homes, providing food hampers to families and feeding members of our Greater Victoria street community are some of the top priorities for local agencies.
And as food banks and shelters continue to navigate the balance between protecting staff and volunteer teams while getting those essential services to the front lines, demands continue to increase.
COVID-19 is a particular threat to seniors and those with underlying health conditions. Having members of our homeless population congregate or creating lineups of families picking up food hampers can be a tinderbox of infection. This creates challenges that agencies are tackling head on.
Most agencies are choosing to serve meals outdoors, including in their parking lots, following social-distancing guidelines. Both the Mustard Seed and Salvation Army have placed tape on the pavement and have tables blocking individuals from getting too close.
Food banks are collaborating and sharing resources. Most agencies have similar needs and requests — canned protein, new blankets, new socks, hand sanitizer, masks and gloves. Working together to figure out what are the essential services that each agency provides and who is doing what has been key.
For example, the Mustard Seed is providing 200 pre-packed family hampers and distributing 250 hot lunches daily in the parking lot. At the Food Security Distribution Centre the focus is on rescuing fresh produce, dairy products, and food items that support individuals’ immune systems.
As spring break comes to an end and school closures take place, agencies expect to see a surge in families needing more support, as these families will no longer be able to rely on the breakfast or lunch programs at their schools. And many parents will be working fewer hours with social distancing and childcare not being available for school-age children.
For members of the street community there is a great fear that agencies will shut down and they won’t have a dry place to sleep. Food banks and shelters are facing their own fears of cancelled spring fundraisers and running out of money to purchase food and supplies.
The need for the Greater Victoria community to come together is greater than ever. You can help in a few ways.
Volunteer: If you are healthy and not in a high-risk group, please consider helping at your local food bank, food-recovering facility or shelter. Most agencies have a contact email or number on their website.
Donations: Your donation is needed now more than ever. During self-isolation, make a financial donation online to the Rapid Relief Fund. Agencies are working directly with local supermarkets to protect the supply to their food banks. All the proceeds will go to purchase food, blankets, gloves and masks.
I believe that during this time of fear and/or isolation there is a great need to come together, to love on each other and to continue strengthening our communities in a way that ensures the safety and well-being of all. Let’s believe in people. Let’s believe in each other.
HOW TO DONATE
Tax receipts will be issued.
• Online: rapidrelieffund.ca
• Phone: 250-381-5532
• Mail: Send cheques to the Victoria Foundation at #200-703 Broughton St., Victoria, B.C., V8W 1E2
Please ensure cheques are made out to the Victoria Foundation. Note the ‘Rapid Relief Fund’ in the memo line or in a cover letter. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.