Community Food Centre’s “numbers have skyrocketed” post-pandemic

Team members discuss new innovations at the NDG Depot since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the past 30 years, the Depot Community Food Centre has worked day and night to provide food for low-income families. Originally founded as a temporary emergency food measure in 1986, the Depot has now grown into a crucial resource to ensure food security in NDG and the surrounding areas. 

While its primary purpose is a food bank, their Marché Depot also acts as a grocery store. Volunteers help cook food, serve participants, and stock pantries. Additionally, the centre is solely donation-based. Most of the money comes from grants from the federal and municipal government, individual donations, or charitable foundations. 

A volunteer scoops apple butter from the pot and separates sliced apples with spices. Photo by Jacqueline Lisbona/THE CONCORDIAN

Karima Dajani is the communications coordinator for the Depot. She explained that customers are given a certain amount of “depot dollars” once a month to purchase food depending on how many people are in their household. 

“The depot dollars are split, they have a budget between fresh produce and dry ingredients, and they come for their appointment once a month and shop,” Dajani said.

However, after the pandemic, the Depot Community Food Centre adapted and improved their safety measures and distribution system. According to Randa Abu Hakima, a volunteer of six years, one of the changes is that the depot no longer accepts food donations from the public.

“It’s a much better image to present to people in the community. It is food that we would eat rather than outdated cans of food or stuff people rejected from their homes,” Hakima explained. 

Dajani said the demand for their food has increased since the pandemic.

“Our numbers have skyrocketed. Not just because of COVID, but also because we’re seeing a lot more immigrants. December was by far our busiest month ever. We provided emergency food for around 2,770 individuals,” Dajani recalled. 

Dajani also explained that a new “award-winning healthy food policy” has been implemented since the pandemic. “We only serve meat at the restaurant once a week, and everything is as clean and healthy as possible, she said.” 

Okra is chopped to add to the vegan curry. Photo by Jacqueline Lisbona/THE CONCORDIAN

The COVID-19 outbreak also gave the community food centre the opportunity to reflect on their food distribution system.

“During COVID we were delivering to people, so we had to change the way we operated. We had to shift super quickly,” Dajani said, explaining that they had to stop their delivery services post-pandemic.

Despite the changes, Hakima still feels at home when she volunteers.

“I feel part of a community, a very special community and it relates to food. I love my food so I want everyone to enjoy their food and to have food so it’s a very happy and rewarding place to be.”

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