The Quesnel Salvation Army has shut down its thrift store during the COVID-19 pandemic, its soup kitchen will hand out bagged lunches Tuesday to Friday between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and its food bank will be open by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 250-992-7079. (Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

COVID-19: Quesnel Salvation Army soup kitchen switches to bagged lunches

The food bank is open, but with the thrift store now closed, a major source of revenue is missing

The Salvation Army in Quesnel has had to make some changes to its operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is continuing to feed people in the community through its soup kitchen and food bank.

The organization’s food bank has remained open to serve community members in need but has moved to a by-appointment system in order to limit the amount of patrons in the building at any given time.

Quesnel Salvation Army Family Service Worker Elaine Schonke says the demand for the food bank’s service has increased significantly this month.

“It has definitely increased,” she said Wednesday, March 18. “I don’t have my exact numbers right now. I usually sit about 70 families by this point in the month, and I’m well over 100, so there has been a lot of new [families] and a lot of panic with people that are regular clients of the food bank. It has really increased because they want to stock up too, and they don’t have that opportunity, as for many of them, cheques aren’t really happening until next week.”

While the food bank has seen an increase in clients, it has seen a slump in its donations at the same time. Schonke believes this is in part to do with the time of year but also because people are stocking up for themselves.

“Generally speaking, this time of year is always slower for us for donations, but it has absolutely dropped off as people get worried about their own family and for every reason, as right now we are all in that moment — so we are low on donations for sure,” said Schonke.

The Salvation Army has also had to shut down its soup kitchen, the Warrior’s Song Café. Instead of offering a place to gather and a hot meal, they are now passing out bagged lunches to those who are in need of a meal.

The lunches have included a sandwich, granola bar, bottle of water and an orange, items which Schonke says aren’t typically served through the soup kitchen, but changes had to be made in order to stay more sustainable in the foreseeable future during the pandemic.

The operational change started on March 18, and on the first day, 85 bag lunches were handed out.

With the closure of the Salvation Army’s thrift store, which is the main source of revenue funding the services of the food bank and soup kitchen Schonke feels tough times may be ahead, especially as individuals in the community may have to lean on their services due to income shortages relating to closures in the community.

“Right now, we are working in that survival mode like everyone is … we have had to close our thrift store, starting [March 19] and that thrift store’s revenue that comes in keeps us functioning over across the road at the food bank, so what’s going to end up happening is a trickle-down effect to our operational costs,” said Schonke. “We’re not going to have those funds the way we used to, so down the road, all those things are going to start piling up, just the same as they will for everybody — we are just going to try and do our best and keep serving people until we run out.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the food bank can do so by visiting the location at 374 McLean St. in person, Tuesday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Schonke says the door will be locked, but to please knock.

A few of the items identified as most needed at this time are peanut butter, sidekicks, proteins, juice boxes, water, baby supplies and toilet paper.

Individuals who require the services of the food bank are encouraged to call 250-992-7079 in advance of the day they wish to visit the food bank to set up an appointment.

Photo ID and proof of residency in Quesnel are required.

The soup kitchen will continue to supply bagged lunches Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“This town is very generous, and its people really come together,” said Schonke.

“The biggest thing people can do if they are unable to donate is to check on neighbours, phone seniors, check and see if someone might need something dropped off — all those things will actually help us as well because it takes some of the load off us. A community of helping is what I see already and what will continue to happen — if everyone helps their neighbour, no one will go hungry.”

READ MORE: Closures, revenue, staffing among main impacts of COVID-19 on 90% of B.C. business: survey

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