Vancouver Island food banks are feeling the impacts of supply chain constraints brought on by the pandemic and exasperated by last month’s flooding, but some have been able to avoid the worst thanks to a combination of luck and planning.
The Mustard Seed Food Bank in downtown Victoria has been able to continue providing much-needed support to its clients, but has been forced to change its plans for holiday hampers being given out this month.
”We were on the precipice of receiving our Christmas hampers product … and a lot of that product was in Calgary when the roads were washed out,” said director of food security Treska Watson. “We’ve had to pivot to gift cards because we just don’t have the products.”
Watson said the situation means the food bank team will be monitoring inventory even more closely than they usually do. It will also mean they will likely have to adjust the contents of future hampers based on what food items are running low.
Right now, that means bakery and dairy products might not be featured in hampers for awhile, while an increased portion of fruits and vegetables will be substituted so clients are not getting less food overall.
Despite the shortages coming during the especially busy holiday season, which this year has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of first-time users of the food bank, Watson said the food bank is in a decent position for the short term. The long-term, however, remains difficult to predict.
At the Goldstream Food Bank, purchaser Susan Still said they have so far managed to dodge the flooding impacts on the supply chain, thanks to her decision to place their fall and winter orders earlier than usual.
“I put my order in mid-September for October, and then I put another order in early October for November, so I would have everything I needed for December,” Still said. “I received all of my stuff, except for 36 cases of coffee.”
If those orders had not been placed so early, Still said the food bank may only have had 40 per cent of the supplies needed for its holiday hampers.
While the hampers are business as usual, the ordering process is not.
Food orders which would usually take two weeks to arrive are now taking closer to two months.
Having avoided the worst, Still said the food bank currently has enough inventory to get them through to the spring, and even share some of their supplies with other food banks in the region which were not so fortunate. But given how long flood recovery is expected to take, she is expecting inventory to get lean come the summer as the supply chain impacts catch up to them.