Fort St. John Salvation Army receives $75,000 food hub grant

Fort St. John city councillors visited the Salvation Army Tuesday to deliver a $75,000 grant for its food hub programs.

The funding comes from the province's community support grant program for the indefinite closure of Louisiana Pacific’s Peace Valley OSB mill. Funds will support the Salvation Army's food hub programs, which include the food bank, Christmas hampers, school lunch programs, and more.

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"We were given the choice of taking money and doing something ourselves, but one of the goals of council is to build partnerships," Mayor Lori Ackerman said.

"I'm a huge fan of efficiencies. The Salvation Army is very efficient, they got the system in place. They've got the food hub, and they're working closely with all of the other agencies, so the best use of this money is to provide the Salvation Army with those funds."

The Salvation Army has seen a 28% spike in the number of families visiting the centre from 2018 to 2019, or about 140 more families per month. The agency is serving 1,200 people representing 500 families.

Money is just as valuable as food in keeping a food bank running, said executive director Cameron Eggie.

"Material items are valuable too, like a pile of bread, but if you need to buy peanut butter to go with the bread, there has to be financial resources to do that, or to repair something," Eggie said.

"Sometimes it's communicating to the donor and sharing the narrative that money … keeps non-profits operating."

Nearly 200 mill workers lost their jobs, as did hundreds more contractors, when the mill closed last June.

There's no indication of when it may reopen, but Ackerman said she has been in discussions with LP on making use of its fibre supply in the region.

"Anything we can do as a municipality to have them reopen and contribute again to the community with jobs and the economy we'll do," Ackerman said.

The Salvation Army began picking up surplus food from the Site C work camp last week, Eggie said.

"So now we're supplying the seniors centre, we're working with APPLE schools to get their program started, New Day in the Peace, we're feeding their facility every week," Eggie said.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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