Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Dana Folkersen was worried people would think her organization was shutting down.
Far from it. REACH is “busier than ever.”
The Regina non-profit organization runs several programs providing affordable food.
It delivers Good Food Boxes to anyone who registers, plus another grocery program for people on social assistance.
The frozen-meal program for seniors and health-compromised people normally means 10 to 20 deliveries in a week, “and it’s doubled,” said Folkersen, REACH’s executive director.
In attempts to limit residents from having to travel, some Regina-area First Nations are buying more grocery boxes than usual from REACH.
“We normally would (pack) all our boxes on a Wednesday. Our demand has gone up so much that we’re doing two pack days,” added Folkersen.
REACH is different from other grocery delivery programs, in that it deals in cash and cheques, so people without credit cards can access the services.
Logistics have changed a bit — some of REACH’s partner organizations have closed, so dropoffs have been adapted. And, staff and volunteers are taking precautions to not get sick.
“We’re maintaining the two-metre distance and all the health regulations — and then some — to assure safety for our staff and for our volunteers,” said Folkersen.
Likewise, the Regina Food Bank is prioritizing health and wellbeing.
Its CEO John Bailey is currently living in a hotel, because going home after work would mean putting at risk his young daughter, who has a compromised immune system.
“We take social distancing and stuff as an organization really seriously, because I take it really seriously,” said Bailey. He wishes everyone would understand how serious it is.
REACH and the food bank are among several local organizations working together to provide lunches to vulnerable children while schools are closed. (Logically — REACH’s acronym stands for Regina Education and Action on Child Hunger.)
Beginning Thursday, 1,000 bagged lunches will be distributed at City of Regina neighbourhood centres — Thursday at mamaweyatitan centre and Friday at Core Ritchie, 12:30 to 4 p.m. Families will be able to access a food package containing a week’s worth of food.
They are also working together to serve the overall community and make sure no one in need is going hungry.
“There’s been great co-ordination amongst the non-profits and charities in the city,” said Bailey.
Both REACH and the food bank are mindful of how long they can last.
Staffing at REACH is “maxed,” because “many of our volunteers come from those vulnerable groups and need to limit their contact,” said Folkersen.
“I’m not sure how long we can go; I mean, if somebody gets sick, then that’s probably it … What we do, can’t operate without us being here. So we’re definitely following all the protocols around distancing and everything.”
The food bank’s resources are so taxed, it is asking that people cease donating food — monetary donations only for the time being, because “we don’t have the people power to sort the food,” said Bailey.
Demand is already on the rise. Last weekend — at the end of the first week of the COVID-19 crisis hitting Saskatchewan — the food bank saw a three-per-cent increase in usage.
“The prospect of what this is going to mean for our community in terms of need on the food bank is legitimately keeping me up at night,” said Bailey.
“We’re in the beginning of what will be a tidal wave.”
Hoarding isn’t helping things, either, said Folkersen.
“Sometimes people just don’t understand, with our vulnerable clients, they’re not in a position to be able to stock a pantry or have two weeks of food in there,” she said.
And, when they seek out supplies, there’s sometimes nothing left.
Learn more about REACH at reachinregina.ca or 306-347-3224. Donate through canadahelps.org (search REACH Regina).
To contact the food bank (and donate), visit reginafoodbank.ca or call 306-791-6533.
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