Second Stoney Creek food bank planned

An east end community group says a new food bank serving their Hamilton area could be operating within six months.

Brendan Tait, the new chair of the community group, says formal discussions will begin “as soon as possible” with St. Matthew’s House to talk about establishing a new food bank for the east end.

“Six months is a very conservative estimate,” Tait said during a meeting March 8 at the Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre. St. Matthew’s House executive director Steve Leighfield confirmed the community group has asked the charitable organization to help oversee the creation, and operation of a food bank for the area.

“We’ve agreed in principle to work with them,” said Leighfield. “We are still working at it. The discussions are still preliminary. We see (a food bank) as a good extension of what we do and important for the area. There is a significant need.”

Judy Kloosterman, a community development worker for the Riverdale and east end area, said a group of volunteers couldn’t open a food bank by themselves, even though they have been investigating the idea for nearly two years.

“If we wanted to we couldn’t,” she said.

The organization does have about $80,000 in donations and funding to start up a food bank. A proposed cell tower in the commercial area of the South Service Road and Centennial Parkway could provide up to $40,000 per year in funding to the group, said Kloosterman.

For the last 18 months, Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins has shepherded the group of east-end residents as they attempt to figure out the best way to open a food bank for their area. The problem was prompted when the Stoney Creek Community Food Bank relocated in late 2012 from its King Street location to Highway 8 near Fruitland Road.

Members of the group talked to representatives of St. Matthew’s House, Neighbour to Neighbour and Mission Services, before deciding to partner with St. Matthew’s House to open a food bank.

It was important to join with an existing organization because the community group is not an established entity, said Tait, who was elected chair of the new group. St. Matthew’s, he said, urged the group to create an improved organizational structure before formal discussions could take place. At the Saturday afternoon meeting the group elected a chair, vice-chair and secretary.

“They are beginning to take their first steps,” said Leighfield. “We had to make sure to protect the organization. There won’t be a formal agreement, but some sort of understanding.” Under the partnership, St. Matthew’s House would have oversight of any money that is raised for the east-end food bank.

The idea, said Tait, is to establish the food bank, allow St. Matthew’s House to oversee it, but with the east-end community group, which doesn’t have a formal name yet, to help raise funds for the operation. Eventually, he said, the community group will take responsibility for the operation. St. Matthew’s House is expected to sign any lease for a building that houses the food bank.

“Our goal is to take it over,” said Tait.

Collins said Hamilton Food Share has agreed to supply food to the food bank. A location also needs to be determined, said Kloosterman.

Requirements for a location include it has to be on a transit route, near a main street; and it should not be too visible so people won’t be afraid to visit.

There are a few possibilities the group has looked at, said Kloosterman, including a commercial unit behind East Side Mario’s on Queenston Road and close by Eastgate Square. But nothing has been determined, she said.