Community Connections reveals expanded food distribution centre

Community Connections opened its new food bank on Nov. 15, offering a bright, welcoming space and expanding the organization's donation capacity.

Volunteers set up for the second day of Nov. 17. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

Community Connections revealed their expanded food distribution facility earlier this week, offering a bright open space with a cozy market atmosphere.

Located in the same building as the Community Connections Outreach Centre on Second St. West., the food bank opened its doors on Nov. 15. The soft opening marked a new chapter for Community Connections, concluding construction that has been underway since fall 2020.

“There are quite a few opportunities now that we’re in this space, and this is just phase one of a lot of things that are to come,” says Hannah Whitney, food and outreach coordinator at Community Connections.

Taken a few hours before opening, the entrance of the expanded space is quiet. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

Ahead of the second day of distributions, volunteers fill shelves and stock fridges. Non-perishables are neatly presented in rows and produce fills colourful bins. As volunteers bustle around tables, shelves and fridges, the atmosphere is comparable to visiting a small neighborhood grocer. The space is bright, and most importantly, it is welcoming.

“There’s such a stigma around using programs like this,” explains Whitney. “Food is like the outstretched hand to bring people into more supports as well.”

Half an hour before distribution, volunteers stock fridges, shelves and tables: similar to the commercial grocery stores a few blocks away. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

New facility expands food processing capabilities, minimizing waste

The opening of the new food bank came at perfect timing; as flooding stresses supply chains and panic-buyers strip shelves, many are feeling the pinch of food insecurity.

Beyond the distribution centre, the new food bank boasts kitchen equipment for processing donations. This is a major opportunity for Community Connections, explains Whitney.

“This just allows our capacity to take advantage of food recovery that we maybe couldn’t have in the past,” she elaborates. By freezing, canning, and prepping their raw donations, Community Connections can accept more food without worrying about waste.

Hannah Whitney, the food and outreach coordinator at Community Connections, takes stock of a brand new freezer full of locally sourced meat. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

Additionally, the new facility opened in time for the launch of the Community Connections Christmas program.

“We recognize that December is a harder time of year for a lot of people for many reasons, and we want to help people out with that,” says Whitney.

There are three ways to participate in the Christmas program, said Whitney. In addition to accepting monetary donations, Community Connections will be posting a “Christmas wishlist” of in-demand holiday items. They will also set up stockings at various local businesses to accept gift card donationss.

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Bailey Gingras-Hamilton is a recent graduate of the Mount Royal University Journalism program, where she developed an interest in current events and social issues. As a chronically curious individual, she enjoys exploring new places, cuisines, and cultures.