Having relied on the food bank when he was a young, new father Chris Dinnell leapt at the opportunity to help the Richmond Food Bank during COVID-19.
“It was something that we had do to, but later on down the road when I became more secure I always wanted to somehow give back to the food bank, however it was,” he told the Richmond News.
Dinnell is one of 11 volunteer drivers, coordinated through the COVID-19 Richmond Coming Together Facebook group, who help the food bank with weekly home deliveries. Two food bank volunteers also run deliveries.
“I’ve been doing about six or seven (deliveries) a week, sometimes 10,” said Dinnell, who works as a realtor at Dinnell Real Estate Group, adding that both he and his wife try to give back to the community as much as they can.
“It’s been really inspiring, seeing the smiles on people’s faces when I come there to drop off the food. It warms my heart…it’s amazing. I absolutely love it,” he said, adding that it’s been “amazing” to see the way the Richmond community has come together during COVID-19.
While Richmond Food Bank’s home delivery program has been around since before the pandemic, it’s “quadrupled” in size, according to executive director Hajira Hussein.
“We were doing maybe 20 to 25 deliveries (before COVID-19), but now we’re doing 79 per week,” said Hussein.
Many of those registered for the home deliveries have health concerns, are seniors, or are anxious about going out during COVID-19, she said.
Hussein said the volunteers from the Coming Together Facebook group have been a “godsend,” as many of the food bank’s volunteers chose to step back in March, as they they’re seniors, including one who would help with the delivery program, although that driver has since returned.
She added that the “outpouring of support” for the food bank during COVID-19 has made her “feel happy and proud to be part of this amazing community.”
Although the food bank serves around 1,400 people each week from its main location on Cedarbridge Way and at a depot in East Richmond, Hussein still wants to raise awareness of the bank’s programs for anyone in Richmond who may be struggling.
“Crisis can hit anybody, anytime, and we want people to know that they do not have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from,” she said. “We’re here to help.”
But Hussein admitted that “her biggest struggle” at the food bank is the stigma or shame people may feel in reaching out and asking for food – something they may never have had to do before.
Dinnell said he also understands that some people might find it hard to ask for help. At 19, as a new father, without enough money, his family relied on the food bank each week.
“At that time, it was embarrassing. I don’t think I told anybody, but now, I wanted to share my story and want people to know that it’s not embarrassing,” he said.
“People go through struggles, and it may be a struggle right now but things won’t always be this way.”
Last month, Richmond Food Bank received a $22,000 grant from the Community Foundations of Canada – coordinated locally by Richmond Cares Richmond Gives – to boost the home delivery program, said Hussein.
The funding will allow the food bank to reach out to more residents who are in need of food assistance but are unable to come in person due to pre-existing health conditions, a family member’s health or other challenges.
People can either register over the phone or online for home deliveries, she said, adding that people can also still come in person to pick up food, either from the main road or the Daniels Road depot in east Richmond.