Home Blog April 2021 The Importance of PPE at the Food Banks

The Importance of PPE at the Food Banks

The Importance of PPE at the Food Banks
The pandemic pushed food insecurity to new heights in 2020. With businesses closing, unemployment rates skyrocketing and schools shutting down, food banks across Canada were getting ready to welcome the increasing number of clients visiting their food banks.

Food bankers have faced many unprecedented challenges in the past, but none like this pandemic. “As we all tried to understand what a global pandemic was -we knew one thing for certain– closing our doors was not an option. We diligently followed government directives and hoped our efforts would ensure that we could continue serving our clients”, explains Bernadette Siracky, executive director at the Kamloops Food Bank.

As the pandemic continued to evolve, the days became increasingly difficult. Volunteers were fearful of coming in and it was a challenge to keep up with safety protocols to keep clients and staff safe.

“Our volunteer base was cut by half and we were forced to change on a dime. It was challenging to work with less staff while trying to keep everyone safe at the same time, but we had no choice. We were providing a basic need to our community’s most vulnerable and without our support, these families and individuals would not survive”, continued Bernadette.

Food banks across the country needed to think fast about the different ways to continue to be there for their communities despite the challenges.

As the new normal of pandemic life settled in, food banks knew that they had to change the way they operate. Many internal meetings took place to discuss ways to keep clients and staff safe. One of the main topics was how to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for anyone setting foot in the food banks. Bernadette explains, “One of our first challenges was procuring a steady supply of PPE items for our staff and clients as their safety remained our priority. As soon as we could, we ordered plexiglass, masks, gloves, shields and sanitizers and taught our clients and volunteers the new rules of social engagement so we could keep our doors open”. But this was not always easy. Some food banks reached out to their networks in order to secure PPE, but many food banks experienced delays in acquiring the gear and other supplies for their food banks as demands from all over Canada increased.

Thankfully, many Canadians and businesses saw the challenges that the food banks were facing and wanted to offer a helping hand.

One organization, Ennis Fabrics, which is a North American distributor of globally sourced textile fabrics and supplies donated 3.5 million medical grade disposable masks to food banks, through Food Banks Canada. This has been helpful for all the food banks. “We appreciate the donation of the face masks as it will save the food banks from having to purchase them over the next several months.  This will enable us all to spend more money on food for our clients”, says a member of the Okanagan food banks. With clients coming in from left and right, many food banks were faced with the challenge of getting more funds than normal for more food, as well as PPE.

This incredible donation by Ennis Fabrics not only helped the food banks by helping them save money for food, but it also helped the clients.

Those who come to the food banks cannot afford food, which is an essential need, but they also cannot afford to protect themselves because of lack of funds for face masks and other supplies. "It's so nice to be provided face masks so we can carry on the work we're doing in a safe manner. We've been able to hand some of these face masks out to some food bank clients who struggle to get their own face masks, so it's been a very important donation to help our distribution of food in the safest possible way".

And all the food banks that received the donation have two words to say to Ennis Fabrics.

“Thank You!” Thank you for recognizing the challenges facing some of our most vulnerable population. The impact of this PPE is nearly immeasurable. You have given us the tools we need to safely serve those facing food insecurity — for this we are truly grateful!

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of food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh (eg. milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread)