Emo Food Bank opens its doors

By Jocelyn Galloway
Special to the Times

Emo Food Bank is now open for in-person visits twice a month.

Since the COVID-19 province-wide lockdown in December, the Emo Food Bank has been forced to deliver food by curbside until last week. As of March 3, the Food Bank is now open every first and third Wednesday of every month.

Due to limited space in the building, it requires only one customer enter and be served at a time.

“We’re starting to see an increase now because the government funding is done,” said Charlene McTavish, chairperson of the Emo Food Bank and Thrift Store. “Statistically provincially, small rural food banks during COVID saw a decrease because of the government input of CERB and the increase of child tax benefits… and we felt that here.”

Between the Emo Food Bank and the attached non-profit Emo Thrift Store, it is being run by 19 active volunteers.

Food bank users are provided with a package of essentials, based on the number of people in their household. Some of the basic essentials include peanut butter, coffee, tea, oatmeal, soup, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned meat, pasta and pasta sauce.

Along with the basics, users receive fresh food such as milk, eggs, bread, meat and fresh fruit. It depends on the size of family but they can also choose some items from the open pantry. Since the pandemic, only volunteers are allowed in the pantry but has been set up for users to easily be able to see the selection of foods available.

This past year the Emo Food Bank missed out on some of the food drive events that supplies food for them such as the Emo Parade, Scare Away Hunger and the high school food drive, due to the pandemic. However, they did have a good turn out for the Stuff a Cruiser event held on Dec. 5.

To make up the shortfall, a donation box was set up in Cloverleaf grocery. Emo councillor Lori Ann Shortreed contacted McTavish and was instrumental in arranging the box, while Nico Veldhuisen donated his time and materials to build it. McTavish said they get a remarkable number of donations through the grocery store, which has helped significantly with the loss of food drives.

The food bank is also supported financially by the adjacent thrift store.

“The ladies upstairs work incredibly hard to keep everything running smoothly,” said McTavish.

The Emo Food Bank and Thrift Store originated from the initiatives of the parishioners at St. George’s Anglican Church. When the church disbanded in 2014, the property and building were donated from the church to a small group of parishioners who turned the church into the non-profit Emo Food Bank and Thrift Store.

“When we struck up our corporation, the thrift shop would look after the building like insurance and property, maintenance and any extra would help support the food bank,” said Victor Gustafson, bookkeeper for the Emo Food Bank and Thrift Store. “But our community has been so generous to us, that we overdone’er actually. We had surpluses coming from the thrift shop, so we had to make sure we can do good in the community.”

Gustafson has been the bookkeeper since St. George’s Anglican Church days, upwards of 20 years. He said it has been amazing seeing the communities’ support, even through the pandemic.

In 2019, the Emo Thrift Store donated $11,859.00 back to the community. Donations included a chemo chair for the Riverside Foundation, Fort Frances High School Award, and donations to Thunder Bay Regional Health Science “Our Hearts at Home” Cardiovascular Campaign and the Community Food Sharing Association.

The thrift store was impacted by the province-wide lockdowns. It was closed from March to July 2020 and again in December 2020 to Feb. 24. Although 2020 has been a difficult year for the thrift store, they still were able to make $1,750 worth of donations to the community.

Hours for the thrift store are Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.