July 18th, 2024

New food bank operation assisting local veterans

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 16, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

A new food bank in Lethbridge is quietly assisting military veterans and their families.
Now in its fifth week of operations here, The Veterans Association Food Bank is operating out of a leased space in north Lethbridge.
The building has a living room style space with a television for veterans, a dining area where they can meet to talk and share a meal and at the back is a warehouse area where boxed hampers and food stocks are on shelving.
The organization provides food, funding, support and programs for needy veterans in Alberta, delivering about 250 hampers with a grocery store gift card – each month. It provides emergency assistance and peer support community referrals to veterans who are often reluctant to seek help.
Many won’t use food banks because they don’t want to leave women and children hungry, a feeling which can be ingrained in those who have served overseas in theatres such as Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The hampers, says VAFB Lethbridge operations co-ordinator John Limb – a veteran of Britain’s navy – are delivered in person to veterans so they can be checked upon for their personal well-being.
The satellite office in Lethbridge offers programs including Soup Tuesday – which is a peer support night and every Wednesday veterans meet for dinner which is a chance for them to meet and socialize with their peers.
The organization does in-house outreach to support veterans with VAC claims and offers clothing, furniture and household goods to the needy.
There is also emergency assistance available for such things as rent, household expenses and medical bills and even a pet promise program that covers grooming, veterinarian bills and food.
And the association offers various training opportunities including for First Aid and WHMIS.
The volunteer-based organization is charity driven and on Thursday it was handed a cheque for $1,600 by Michel Monssen and Tom Hovan of Commissionaires Southern Alberta.
“It started in Calgary four years ago and it’s expanded from Calgary. They went to Edmonton and from Edmonton to Grande Prairie and now down here,” said Limb as he and fellow food bank volunteer Lee Willoughby provided a tour of the facility which is open to veterans Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m at 242 12B St. N.
“Veterans don’t like to talk to the public, but they’ll talk to a brother, someone they know. And some of them won’t go to the food bank because they’ll see kids and women and they just recall when they were in Afghanistan and people are starving so they feel like they’re taking the food away. So they’ll go without,” said Limb.
“They feel guilty about it,” said Limb with Willoughby saying veterans sometimes don’t even want to step in the door of the facility with one’s wife recently coming to seek help for her husband instead.
The food bank relies entirely upon volunteers to operate. Eighty five per cent of money generated goes to veterans with only 15 per cent going to operating costs, said Limb.
Technically, the organization isn’t a food bank, Limb says, but rather it’s more of a resource and distribution centre. The food isn’t processed in Lethbridge, but rather delivered to the veterans.
“We take the boxes to the actual veteran, do a wellness check, see if he needs anything else because he’s not going to tell you,” said Limb.
“The only way you can find that out is by actually delivering it.
“It’s a small stepping stones but now it’s actually starting to spread the news. I can see it’s expanding pretty quick. We’ve already seen that,” added Limb.
Anyone wanting to learn more about the organization or provide donations can call Limb at 403-367-8387 Extension 5 or email him at john@vafb.ca

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