The cupboards are getting bare


“The cupboards are getting stripped down, the bank account is getting stripped down,” says Morgan. “It’s getting harder and harder to provide for people.”

Morgan says part of the trouble is that Tumbler Ridge is not used to seeing this amount of demand. “There are a lot of people who want to help but I don’t think most people realize how big the need is, and we don’t have the resources to help them fully. All we can do is supplement. It’s one thing when you’re in a city and you have thousands of people to draw from for support, but here?”

He trails off. “We have a grocery store here in town, and Darryl and Debbie are doing a great job helping us. I can’t say enough about them. But it’s just not enough.”

Morgan is hoping that some local companies will step up, but he admits its difficult with most of the mining sector shut down or on hold. However, he believes they should take at least some responsibility for helping the people they put out of work. “They kind of created this situation. What I’d like to see is some of the corporations step up with a monthly donation.”

Right now, he says, the food bank is seeing between 30 or 40 families per month, and he suspects that’s going to go up come September. “We’re probably spending $500 a month more than in the past,” he says. “We had been spending $1600-1800, and we’re up over that now, in the middle of summer. Come September, I think things could hit the fan pretty good, and I don’t know where we’re going to go with it. All I know is: we need to find some support.”

While the locals are generous, says Morgan, there is more demand than supply. And, he says, some people don’t understand the laws around what can and cannot be donated. “There’s a bin by the door in the grocery store. People are donating. They’re generous, but they’re giving stuff like home preserves, and I can’t put that in a food hamper legally. It has to be non-perishable, store-bought food. As nice as it would be to have a community bread bake, we can’t do that.”

Morgan says he’s working on introducing a few new ideas to try and improve the visibility of the food bank. “I was down on the coast a few weeks ago, and there’s a store that has bags at the end of the till: $5, $10, $20 bags of food that you can buy for the food bank.”

The Tumbler Ridge Thrift store, has been helping out, giving them a portion of the profits, but even that, says Morgan, isn’t enough. “They’ve been a huge help. Unfortunately, the need is a lot bigger.”

He says that the food bank is run as a ministry by the New Life Church, so one hundred percent of donations go to buying food. “There are no employees, there is no cost to the building or any overhead. It’s a ministry that goes 100 percent back to the community.”

He says some of the people who are using the food bank are new to town. “I’m hearing through the grapevine, I have no definitive proof, but I am hearing that social services is telling people to move here because of the low rents. I don’t know how true it is, it’s just what I’m hearing people saying. People say “well, you know.” Maybe it is, but I don’t have any proof.”

But, says Morgan, the people who are using the food bank are a mix of people who are new and who have been in the community for years. “I had someone come in here today who had been living in the community for decades. It’s a mix of new people and old people. I have people who come in here and this is so foreign to them to have to ask for food. People apologize. I had one guy who kept saying ‘I’m so embarrassed.’ We’re here to help. You don’t need to be embarrassed.”

What happens when demand outstrips ability? Morgan says he can easily envision a day when the shelves are bare. “It’s bad. How bad will it get? I don’t know. Come September, I think it’s going to get worse, and then we’re going to be in big trouble, and if something doesn’t change, there’s going to come a day when the cupboards are empty, and we’re going to have to say ‘I’m sorry, but the food bank is closed’ unless we can find people to donate.”

Despite that, Morgan says helping people out has given him a new perspective on the community. “It’s really nice when people come in here, they don’t go to the church, and they’ll say ‘whatever you need done, I’ll do it. Cut your lawns … whatever you need.’ I’ve had tough looking biker dudes come in here and break down because they now had food, and they hadn’t eaten in five days. Seeing the look on a family’s face when you drop off a food package? It’s like Christmas morning. They feel loved by the community, and seeing that makes this ministry worthwhile. The difference it makes in people’s lives? That’s what makes it worthwhile.”