The Nicola Valley and District Food Bank provides a number of vital services to those struggling to make ends meet, representing an increasing percentage of the population amidst high inflation and cost of living increases. 

The food bank serves an average of 900 clients on a monthly basis, currently out of its Quilchena Avenue location. The 1800 square foot storefront is used by the non-profit to receive, sort, and distribute its donated food and other goods. Mostly run by volunteers, the food bank is a true community effort.

Brenda Fahlman first got involved volunteering at the food bank following the devastating wildfire that destroyed the community of Lytton in 2021, when the food bank received such a high volume of donations that a second location, utilizing the Elks Hall, became necessary. 

“I just saw an ad on Facebook and thought I could help out, I love sorting things and organizing and stuff like that,” Fahlman told the Herald.

“I went there, and soon I was there almost every day, and here [at the food bank] I volunteer for the three days a week that they’re open. Some of my janitor work is also volunteer.”

Starting out, Fahlman’s main tasks consistent of dividing, portioning, and preparing food hampers for distribution to clients. Floods, fires, and economic downturn have all led to an increase in the number of people requiring assistance from the food bank, meaning Fahlman’s role has also expanded.

She has picked up and delivered donations, sorted donated goods, interacted with clients, and ensured operations at the much needed local food bank stayed running as they should, and continues to handle some of these tasks, and any other that may arise. The local retiree now finds herself volunteering for the food bank up to 16 hours a week, a task which she considers mutually beneficial.

“It makes me feel better, too,” noted Fahlman. “It makes me feel better about myself, because I have clinical depression, and with lots of ups and downs, this helps to centre me. It makes me feel good, like I’m contributing and I can do it.”

Fahlman added that the volunteering environment at the Nicola Valley and District Food Bank is a dynamic one, offering a fast paced and sometimes challenging environment, but maintaining a positive tone. 

“We’re kind of like a little family in the food bank now, we’re all happy to be here,” said Fahlman. 

The food bank also runs an annual Christmas Hamper Program, which distributes food, clothing, and gifts to hundreds of local families during a financially strenuous time. The program is one of Fahlman’s favourite parts of volunteering, evident in her cheerful tone when describing her involvement.

“It’s fun giving away free toys,” noted Fahlman with a laugh. “We had a book there for people to write comments, and all of them were just great and positive, people were shocked and in disbelief at everything they could get.”

Fahlman, along with fellow volunteer Georgina Johnny, was awarded the food bank’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2022, recognizing her commitment and dedication to the organization. The food bank says it is searching for more volunteers and board members to join their award winning team.