Food and friendship
Who’s around the table as important as what’s on it at Glace Bay Food Bank
It’s not always what’s on the table that brings people to the Glace Bay Food Bank, sometimes it’s who’s around it.
“Many people come here for someone to talk to, for conversation,” said Justin Chiasson, 43, of Glace Bay.
After finishing a meal of bologna at the food bank on Thursday, Chiasson sipped on a coffee as he spoke with the Cape Breton Post, a sense of loneliness apparent in his voice. Often at the food bank as many as five days a week for a meal, he also looks forward to talking with the other regulars.
“It’s good here, you make friends.”
A quiet but friendly man wearing a well-worn Toronto Blue Jays hat, Chiasson has been going to the food bank for more than 25 years and said it makes a big difference because he’s on a disability with Community Services and doesn’t have a lot to go on.
Chiasson receives $810 but after paying $575 for rent and $75 monthly towards his power bill he can’t afford much in the way of food.
“If it wasn’t for the food bank I’d be going hungry a lot.”
Grateful for the help, Chiasson can often be found at the back at the food bank, helping to unload any trucks that come in, while also helping with food drives.
“I feel like I should give back and I want to give back.”
Daniel Slaunwhite, 36, of Glace Bay, was also at the food bank on Thursday, enjoying a breakfast of bologna. Slaunwhite said the food bank is a place where people are assisted in many ways.
“They help people with their taxes and even had someone coming in giving free haircuts,” he said.
The food bank helps him and his girlfriend, Slaunwhite added.
“I come for breakfast but try not to get orders. My girlfriend gets orders as she has three kids.”
He is unemployed but working hard to change his life, including working on his GED preparation.
But in the meantime he likes going to the food bank, not only for a meal but for friendship.
“It’s a nice atmosphere. Many people come to have someone to talk to.”
Food bank volunteer Ruth Martell said many who do come in are lonely and look forward to talking to friends they’ve made there.
Some people even come in who don’t need food, she said, adding it’s often because of the companionship.
“They always sit at the same tables with the same people. It’s friendship and a safe place they can come to eat and have someone to talk to. ”
Nunavut native Mary Makiuk moved to Glace Bay with husband David Pembroke, originally of New Waterford, with seven of their nine children in 2010.
“We wanted to give them better education,” she said.
Makiuk said her husband has serious medical issues and the Department of Community Services assists them. But she doesn’t know what they would have done without the help of the food bank.
“It’s really good, I come here a lot and they’ve really helped us.”
She said it’s hard to find a job. Her husband looks after the children and she makes jewelry to try to help out.
“Thank God for the food bank. I have meals here and sometimes my children do too when not in school. It’s hard for my husband to walk so sometimes I’ll take a meal home for him.”
However, Makiuk also said it’s also about the friendships that you seal there.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends here.”
Food bank co-ordinator Pat Hurley said the need is great in the community. Last month the food bank provided grocery orders for 383 adults and 227 children as well as 949 meals.
The food bank will be holding a food drive on Sept. 30, beginning at 10 a.m. and is hoping for public support.
People donating food are asked to mark it for the food bank and leave it on the doorstep. Anyone wishing to assist with the annual food drive can contact the food bank at 902849-0750.
Glace Bay Food Bank chair David MacKeigan said the food drive is important because as fall sets in and the temperatures drop, the number of people walking through the door will rise considerably.
“When it gets cold people have to make a decision whether to heat their homes or purchase food and that’s why our numbers increase this time of year. This year they’ll be even higher because of the increase (cost) in fuel.”
From left, Mary Makiuk and Justin Chiasson, clients of the Glace Bay Food Bank, and Anne Bushell, a volunteer, chat while having coffee after enjoying breakfast at the food bank on Thursday. Makiuk, who has four of her nine children still living with her, and Chiasson both said they are grateful to the food bank for the help but they also enjoy the companionship of others they meet there.