By Erika Mathieu
Westwind Weekly News
A larger location in Raymond has given Southern Community Thrift shop more room for shop inventory, which help’s support the Southern Community Food Security Society’s food distribution program which has distributed hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to southern Albertans through large-scale drive up distribution events over the past year.
Betty Loder said support in the few few months has been, “phenomenal, the community support has been tremendous.”
The thrift shop operates as a non-profit where community members are able to donate their items and/or shop the local inventory with proceeds going toward the Southern Community Food Security Society, which provides food security for folks facing food insecurity in southern Alberta. Loder said sales from the thrift store, “supports the expenses of the thrift program and the our food security program.” The thrift store, stocked by donors from across southern Alberta, originally opened in December, 2022 but relocated to 82 Broadway N in Raymond last month.
Previously, the organization has held “drive up” style events for food distribution in various communities in Southern Alberta including Coalhurst, Magrath, and Raymond. Lately the organization has been distributing food through a brown bag distributions out of the organization’s warehouse in Raymond, where people are able to collect groceries once per month along with meat and other perishables depending on the inventory available. The organization is also planning to use the brown bag distribution method for the upcoming April 14 food distribution event in partnership with Kainai Food Bank, FCSS, Blood Tribe Department of Health, and Blood Tribe Police at the multipurpose building parking lot on Kainai Reservation.
Loder said her perspective has changed immensely and said the need she has seen in the community has been, “a real eye-opener,” of the number of people struggling with food insecurity in the south.
“I had a chip on my shoulder because i was like, ‘we need this, but its not going to be to the extent that people are saying that we need it. Then the further I got involved with it I was like, ‘oh my goodness, this is an eye opener.” Loder noted Raymond’s reputation of being a bright and happy community can shroud issues such as poverty, and even homelessness.
“You don’t think Raymond has a homeless problem, but Raymond has a homeless problem, and you don’t really find out until you start looking into the corners of things.”
Despite the “overwhelming” amount of support the organization and thrift shop has received to date, Loder said the thrift and food programs continue to rely on donations to operate and fill the need of those facing food insecurity in southern Alberta. unexpected changes in sponsorship and donations can massively impact the scope of services offered by the food program. Loder noted Holiday initiatives such as this week’s Easter Basket giveaway saw the main sponsor for the meat donations pull out unexpectedly, and left the organization scrambling to pay an unexpected $3,200 bill for ham donations.
Loder said the food program, gives out, “a minimum of three to four brown bags a day, and then potatoes. We give anybody all the potatoes they want,” as potato donations are made frequently by Hutterite colonies. She noted various colonies also donate prepared meals for people who may not be able to use food items such as raw meat, and packaged foods which require cooking. Extenuating circumstances, including unstable housing or lack of access to appliances or electricity in some cases create additional barriers for those accessing emergency food supports.
The Southern Community Food Security Society also receives ongoing donations from grocery retailers who have a surplus of perishable items which are likely to not sell before the best before dates. Retailers will pull this product and freeze to prolong the shelf life and reduce waste.
Loder said the Southern Community Thrift hopes to receive its registered charity status for the thrift store soon.
“We’ve submitted our paperwork and we’re in the process, and they’ve started communicating with us,” but added the exact timeline is not certain. Once registered, the organization will be able to access grants and resources expressly allocated for registered non-profit organizations.
Loder noted, “I can’t say we haven’t had zero luck on (grant) funding because the Eagles hall this spring donated three thousand dollars to us for rent.”
For more information on how to donate and support food security in Southern Alberta, Visit Southern Community Food Security on Facebook, or scfoodsecurity.com.