Loss of Safeway will hurt Comox Valley Food Bank

Staff at the Comox Valley Food Bank hope for another source to lessen the impact of the imminent drop in donations of fresh produce by Safeway.

Food bank manager Susan Somerset said the store, with its closure less than three months away, is the only one in the Comox Valley that gives the organization produce seven days a week.

"It will have a huge impact," she explained. "On average, there are about 150 people who we feed on a Monday with produce and bread. Other stores give us reclamation — cans that are dented — but not produce. We're not complaining because the other stores give us lots of other things, but not produce."

Somerset noted it took about 10 years of working with the former president of Safeway in establishing a relationship with the food bank.

Other stores, she added, hesitate to donate produce because they don't want to run the risk of making anyone sick with fruit or vegetables that might be old or moldy.

"We go through everything and we make sure we don't give out moldy produce," Somerset insisted. There's always a chance we might miss something, but we're careful. We're also covered under the Good Samaritan Act, so nobody can sue us."

On average, Safeway donates around 650 banana boxes worth of produce to the food bank, and the loss of food is something that cannot be made in purchases, said Somerset.

"There's salad and fruits … and we can't possibly buy that much every week."

She noted during the late-summer and early-fall months, the organization does receive donations from other groups and the public of produce from harvest, but they can't count on that every year, and the season is very limited.

"We're just kind of holding our breath to see what happens … we just might have to do some begging."

• • •

After 75 years in business in the Comox Valley, the Safeway store in Courtenay will close May 10. The store's 120 employees — 50 full-time and 70 part-time — were given notice a week ago.

Parent company, Nova Scotia-based Sobeys, cited financial viability.


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