Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries is giving new meaning to the words ‘food drive’.

Recently, the Meadow Lake Food Bank – a department of Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries – purchased a new food bank van. The vehicle will be used daily to pick up reclaim items from local grocery stores such as Extra Foods and the Meadow Lake Co-op, a courtesy the food bank has come to depend on.

“The van we had prior to this one was in the shop quite a bit and, over the years, we have poured a lot of money into it,” explained Natanis Bundschuh, executive director of Meadow Lake Outreach Ministries. “But, last summer, Food Banks Canada had a grant opportunity available for us to apply for a new food bank van. We sent the application in, we were approved and we received the funding we asked for.”

It took nearly a year, however, for the local food bank to secure the new van.

“We started shopping once approved – this would have been back in October – but, because of COVID and how everything had been shut down for so long, we quickly realized it was very difficult to find something that was suitable,” Bundschuh said. “Most of the vans we found were used and, when we did find any new ones – by the time I emailed to ask about them – they were gone. This particular van I found in Calgary, and I thought it was a fake ad at first because the price was almost half of what everybody else was asking. And, it’s brand new – it’s a 2023.”

After replying to the ad and discovering the van was indeed still available, negotiations began.

“It was a leasing company out of Calgary and, when talking with them, I asked if there was a possibility we could buy out the lease instead of having to pay it for whatever term,” Bundschuh said. “That wasn’t a problem, and, when they found out we were a food bank, they discounted the purchase price even further. Once it was all said and done, we came in almost $30,000 under budget.”

This meant the organization could afford to have a wrap placed on the vehicle to not only promote the food bank, but its supporters as well.

“It features our logo, and we have a QR code on there so people can snap it on their way by and it will take them straight to our website so they can donate,” Bundschuh stated. “We were also able to advertise all of our sponsors – Food Banks Canada, Extra Foods, which is turning into No Frills so we have the No Frills logo, and the Meadow Lake Co-op. The van was delivered to North Battleford so it could be wrapped before we picked it up, and we ended up bringing it home June 9.”

The wrap was done by a company in North Battleford called All Out Graphics and Design.

“They were awesome,” Bundschuh said. “They did the full design, they sent it to us for approval, we were back-and-forth a little bit, and they did it all up for us.”

While the vehicle is used currently to gather reclaims, Bundschuh said it could find another use in the future.

“At some point, if we have enough funding, support and volunteers, there could be a possibility of us delivering food items to people in need,” she said. “We are aware there are people in our community in wheelchairs or who have mobility issues, and we would like to be able to make things easier for them. It is something we’re looking at, but we’re just not there yet.”

Bundschuh went on to say the need never goes away and, as of late, things have been busier than normal at the food bank.

“We’re seeing an increase, especially with all the fires going on in the north,” she said. “We have had a lot more people coming in looking for emergency support. We definitely need to increase or base of supporters on a monthly basis. We’re going to be looking at doing some campaigns to build up that portion of our food bank income. If we can get people in the community willing to donate even $20 a month, that would be a big help. If you have 100 people donating $20 a month, that makes a tremendous impact. I understand people are finding things tough, but most people can afford $20 per month.”

She also said more volunteers to drive the food bank van would be welcome.

“It takes about an hour each day, starting around 8 a.m.,” Bundschuh said. “They bring the items back to us, we unload them, weigh them and our staff takes it from there. It’s a rewarding job and the men who are doing it currently really enjoy it. We are also open to women. It’s not just a job for men. I’ve done it, I really enjoy it and it makes you feel good to do something for people who don’t have very much.”

by Phil Ambroziak