By James Rose

Special to the Pioneer

For many families, the fast approaching holiday season brings a heightened sense of giving to the people we care about. But for one non-profit charitable organization in the valley, this couldnt be more true for all four seasons of the year.

The Columbia Valley Food Bank (CVFB) was established in 2000, and has been providing access to healthy food for individuals and families from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats ever since. The volunteer driven organizations main activity is to provide food hampers intended to provide a weeks worth of food for families in need.

Housed in a small space in the basement of the current Invermere Public Library, the CVFB uses the space to serve clients and store food.

We are supported entirely by cash and food donations from individuals, visitors, community organizations, churches, service clubs, and businesses in the valley and their generosity is what has enabled the Food Bank to continue to provide its service to those in the need, said the CVFBs chair Lawrie Mack.

Those interested in contributing can do so at a variety of different locations including each grocery store in town, retail shops such as Red Apple, or at our office space, said Mr. Mack.

While the CVFB is appreciative of all items donated, there are certain ones that they simply cant pass along. Food items without a best before date or not prepared in a commercial kitchen are unable to be passed along to families in need. However, those donating money can support the food banks fresh fruit and vegetable coupon program enabling families to purchase perishable items at their own discretion.

The CVFB is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and every third Wednesday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m..

With the exception of a part-time paid coordinator, our services are all provided by volunteers responsible for putting the hampers together, ordering and stocking food, collecting donations from bins in local stores, helping at fund-raising events , and many other activities, commented Mr. Mack. Currently, we have a group of approximately 30 volunteers, supplemented by the eight current members on the board of directors.

Perhaps alarmingly, during the past few years the Food Bank has seen both the number of people accessing its services and its operating costs rise. In 2015 we prepared 788 hampers for 1300 adults and 656 children at an average cost of $108.28 per hamper, said Mr. Mack. This years number of hampers and average cost will be yet higher as we are already over the 700 mark.

Yet despite the challenge of meeting the growing need for the Food Banks services, the organization continues to find a way to provide support throughout the Columbia Valley. Our goal will always be to provide needed support to people whose current needs are not being met by society, said Mr. Mack.

And while our ultimate goal is for the Food Bank to not be needed anymore, until that time, we will continue to pass along the donations provided to us in a responsible manner, he said.

Those that may wish to volunteer can contact the CVFB at 250-342-0850, or Lawrie Mack directly at 250-342-5092.