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'We're really crowded': Duncan-based food bank needs to expand due to rising demand

The Cowichan Valley Basket Society's current building in Duncan is shown. (CTV News) The Cowichan Valley Basket Society's current building in Duncan is shown. (CTV News)

Sheron Hanson and her partner have three children. Like many, she is finding it hard to make ends meet.

“We’re living in an RV,” said Hanson.

Often, she relies on the Cowichan Valley Basket Society for her family's groceries and the occasional hot lunch.

She says she also gets extra support at the food bank that goes beyond the society’s mandate.

“It’s a family here, so if you need help with a job, filling out a resume or an application, they help you with that,” said Hanson.

It’s the only food bank in the City of Duncan and it is under immense pressure.

“We’re making do, but we just need to be able to have more space,” said Henry Wikkerink, manager of the Cowichan Valley Basket Society.

Wikkerink says the building's tiny basement is the food bank’s warehouse, and the demand for its services has grown at an alarming rate.

“The last 18 months, we are up 100 per cent,” said the society’s manager.

Now handing out 600 food hampers per month, the society is feeding roughly 1,300 people. It also serves 200 hot meals per day, all from a small space that has been its home in Duncan for more than 20 years.

“We’re not trying to build an empire or a palace, but we’re really crowded,” said Richard Currie, chair of the society's board.

The society says it needs to build at 3,000-to-4,000-square-foot hamper distribution centre on the property. That would take the existing one out of the cramped basement in the society’s current building.

It would facilitate some office space, far more storage and offer a different way for clients to receive hampers, through a grocery shopping model.

“It puts a bit of dignity into it,” said Wikkerink. “They feel like they get to choose what they need and it actually makes the hampers go further because they have what they know they can use, rather than us giving them something that they can’t use.”

The society has launched a fundraising effort with a goal of raising $950,000 to pay for the new warehouse. That money would also fund the renovation of the existing property, which would continue to house the society’s daily hot meal program.

“So that we have the space that we need to carry on for the immediate need and what we see the need to be for the foreseeable future in the next four or five years,” said Currie.

The board chair says that need shows no signs of slowing down.

Hanson expressed hope that the fundraiser will be successful.

“I think they need it,” she said. “It’s a blessing to the community.”

To help or make a donation visit the Cowichan Valley Basket Society website Top Stories

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