The Salvation Army South Muskoka Ministries is hosting a “Pop Your Trunk” food drive this November, asking locals to drop off food donations in place of their annual door-to-door food drive.
The food banks usually work with the Rotary Club in Gravenhurst to coordinate their annual door-to-door event, but due to the pandemic, they didn’t feel it would be safe to send their volunteers out into the community for the food drive. Instead, Salvation Army Lieutenant Kam Robinson came up with a safe way to collect food through contactless drop-offs. Locals can bring donations to the Salvation Army food bank in Gravenhurst on Nov. 4 or the Bracebridge location on Nov. 18 starting at 7 p.m.
“I still wanted to do something because that food that we receive, it’s a huge help every year and helps fill our shelves for quite a while,” Robinson said. “It sustains us for months, and so I just came up with this idea that maybe people can drive to us and we can just have a few volunteers that we can safely supervise, that are taking all the precautions, and they can just pull the items from someone’s car.”
Robinson encourages families to get everyone involved and said that preparing your donation is a wonderful thing to do with your children to help them learn about thinking of others.
“When you’re going through your cupboards, have your children look for the best before dates and help pack the box,” she said. “Or you may designate a certain budget and say, ‘We’re going to go to the store together and we’re just going to go pick some things that we think another family would really enjoy and that would be nutritious for them.’”
Robinson said kids can also see the process right to the end by riding along to witness the contactless drop-off. It instills a sense of caring for your neighbours while also playing an important part in sustaining the food bank’s operations, she said. The goal of the food drive is to stock the food bank’s shelves heading into 2021, so that for months to come, their team is able to draw from those donated items.
“It’s a wonderful time of year to go through your pantry anyway, and get a little bit more organized and cleaned up,” Robinson said. “We’re just asking that people check the dates on items. There are items that we can still give out after the best before, but we are limited.”
If an item is more than a few months past its best before date or its heavily dented, the team at the food bank asks that you refrain from including it in your donation. All food items are welcome as long as they are commercially labeled with ingredients and a best before date, but the food bank’s most needed items are canned protein, such as tuna or ham, cereal, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, and other canned fruits and vegetables. They’re able to accept some fresh food items, but their refrigeration capacity is limited.
For those interested in providing a financial donation as well, the food bank asks donors to put the cash or cheque in an envelope inside the bags that contain their food, making sure to include their full name, address and phone number so that the food bank can issue a tax receipt.
Any money donated during the food drive will go toward buying items for the food bank’s Christmas hamper program, which provides families that need some extra help around the holidays with classic Christmas foods like turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce and more. The hamper program is also supported by the Salvation Army’s kettle campaign, which will return to the community every Friday and Saturday starting Nov. 13.
“You’ll see the familiar red kettle with the person ringing the bell at it and greeting you, although this year is going to be a little bit different,” Robinson said. “There’s going to be a plastic sort of banner in front of the bell ringer to protect them and you from any spread of COVID, but also there’s going to be a tap option at the kettle stand, so it’s a touchless way for people to donate this year.”
People looking to donate now have the option of tapping their credit card or debit card on a spot that says $5, $10 or $20. It’s as simple as tapping the card and walking away, and people can tap to donate as often as they want. Robinson said they’re excited to offer people a more flexible way to donate, and she’s hoping members of the community will come together again in support of the food banks this holiday season as they always have in the past.
“The community has been so generous every year at food drive time,” she said. “Gravenhurst in particular loves to give us physical donations of food, and we just get overwhelmed. We fill our program room up with food, and it’s amazing to see.”
While a lot has changed this year, Robinson hopes locals will still consider going through their cabinets for a good cause.
“I know it’s a bit different and it means getting in your car and driving to our location, but it’s still very much needed,” she said. “We’re still here, we’re still providing for those families that need a little bit of help, so if you can consider doing that, we’d be so, so grateful.”
Visit 620 Muskoka Road N at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 or 456 Manitoba Street at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18 to drop off your donations. For updates from the Salvation Army South Muskoka Ministries, visit their Facebook page.