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'We're certainly not cautioning people to stay away': Vancouver-area foodbank visits down amid COVID-19 fear

Last Updated Mar 6, 2020 at 5:33 am PST

(Source facebook.com/VanFoodBank)

Visits to some Lower Mainland food banks have dropped as much as 20 per cent amid coronavirus fears

The Greater Vancouver Foodbank is saying anyone who needs food should not stay home due to fear

The organization wants people to know everything is properly sanitized, and volunteers who are sick are staying away

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Lines at Greater Vancouver Food Bank locations have been getting shorter over the last three weeks, and the agency says fear surrounding COVID-19 is to blame.

Visits to some sites have dropped as much as 20 per cent, according to Cynthia Boulter, Chief Operating Officer.

“When we talk to our site partners, so the neighborhood houses or the churches where we create these pop up food hubs during the week, the general consensus is that people are staying away because of fears around coronavirus.”

The organization assists 8,500 people per week and Boulter says the drop-off in clients has been more noticeable at locations that primarily serve seniors and single people.

She says the decrease in numbers is troubling, and worries people may be going hungry even though the risk in B.C. remains low and visiting the food bank poses no extra risk.

“I think what what we’re all hearing is that–in general–people are overreacting to the current threat. We would certainly encourage people to come if they need food,” she says. “We’re certainly not cautioning people to stay away.”

She says everything is properly sanitized and people who work or volunteer for the organization are following health officials’ advice to stay home when sick.

“Where they would have pushed through it before, they’re staying home now,” she explains.

Whenever numbers drop for any reason–which is rare–Boulter says they make sure surplus food goes to others in need, noting staff have made two trips to Squamish in recent weeks to drop off leftover produce.

“People are in great need. And it’s hard to go a week without,” she says. “Perhaps people are leaning on friends and family or something like that more than they normally do. But we encourage them to come and get their food.”