The Piikani Nation in southern Alberta has been running its first food bank for just over a month now, after officials say several past attempts to open a facility were unsuccessful.
Co-ordinator Jody Little Wolf says the need for such a service was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The nation just felt there was a need to have our own essential service as the food bank, so they worked very hard to establish that,” she said.
Since January 1, 2021, the Piikani Food Bank has been running out of the Peigan Community Hall in Brocket, Alta., offering perishable, non-perishable, and frozen foods.
Donations mainly come from a partnership with the Calgary Family Peer Connections (CFPC), a non-profit who helps distribute rescued food across southern Alberta.
“We’re able to (share) food with them, that comes into us, that their nation can use and to support their healthy living and food needs,” said CFPC founder Jaquie Duhasek.
Little Wolf says the community has also been chipping in over the past month.
“They’ve been really great about coming in and donating, and volunteering their time,” Little Wolf said. “One of our council members, Wes Crowshoe, donated two upright freezers.”
Prior to its opening, Piikani Nation members would have to travel to nearby towns such as Pincher Creek and Fort MacLeod for food services, something that wasn’t sustainable.
Hope Grier-Stewart, director of social development for the nation, says roughly 200 to 300 households in the community are in need of the service on reserve, and they are hoping to discourage travel to other communities during COVID-19.
“Before it was kind of hit or miss if you were eligible, or if you were able to get some assistance in the neighbouring towns,” she explained. “So now that it’s here on the nation, there’s no turning anyone away.”
Grier-Stewart says the Aakom-Kiyii Health Services requested her department help out with other necessities as well.
“The (health centre) had requested that we donate some cleaning supplies, so yeah it was kind of a fast process.”
She says she orders supplies such as bleach, and health workers help to distribute them to those in isolation due to COVID-19, who couldn’t otherwise shop for the items.
“They come here and they pick up a food basket, and also some cleaning supplies for the homes.” she said.
Construction is also being done within the Peigan Community Hall to develop a kitchen, with the goal of serving hot meals.