Food Recovery and Delivery

Cranbrook Food Bank drives food security with efficient upgrades.

5 minute read

Cranbrook Food Bank drives food security with efficient upgrades

For 15 years, the Cranbrook Food Bank’s trusty cargo van rolled through the town. The long-serving vehicle made countless grocery, supply and donation pickups, as well as food hamper deliveries for the bustling organization that supports over 2,000 residents with consistent access to healthy food.

While the faithful van was an integral part of operations, challenges such as increased service demands, rising food and fuel costs, and pandemic-related struggles highlighted the need for a more efficient vehicle. That’s when the Cranbrook Food Bank reached out to the Trust for support in purchasing a new hybrid vehicle. In 2021, the Trust supported non-profit social services, food recovery and First Nation organizations to purchase a new EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle, as well as a charging station to help create clean transportation options for Basin residents.

Healthy Food Headquarters

Providing easy access to regular healthy food hampers is one of the Food Bank’s essential services, as exemplified by the hundreds of people they feed daily. In April 2021, they moved to a new, larger location, creating a sharing hub with other hunger-relief agencies.

“The new location was a blessing,” says Food Bank Executive Director Deanna Kemperman. “The extra space improved operational efficiency and allowed us to invite Cranbrook Food Recovery and Farm Kitchen programs, who share our vision of recovering healthy food and getting it to those who need it, to co-locate with us. However, as our annual food recovery from generous local grocers surpassed 300,000 lbs and the need for food delivery increased, the single old van was insufficient.”

She further explains that funding from the Columbia Basin Trust and others was instrumental in helping the organization improve services and, in turn, the region’s food security. Operations Manager Julie Rose agrees.

“About 20% of our hampers are delivered now,” says Rose. “With so much food recovery as well as deliveries to clients, it’s a necessity to have two vehicles. The newest one being a hybrid is key, especially with rising fuel costs.”

While traditional hybrids use electricity to subsidize the primary gas engine, the Food Bank’s new vehicle is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV). It has the ability to run purely electric, with the gas only kicking in when the rechargeable battery is depleted.

Volunteers Cheer Upgrade

Rose is hesitant to speak negatively about the Food Bank’s old fossil-fuelled vehicle because of the years of reliability it provided.

“It’s very big and very rickety,” she admits, laughing. “A lot of the volunteers didn’t feel comfortable driving it because of its size. It can be very intimidating to use a large vehicle, especially if you’ve never driven something like that – and gas consumption is significant.” 

Determined to find a better solution for their community, the Food Bank sprang into action in 2021, applying for grants to upgrade their fleet. Today, volunteers are putting the modern, fuel-efficient SUV PHEV to good use as they confidently serve more clients.

The hybrid handles short trips primarily on battery power, and is a much better fit for their East Kootenay location and weather. Kemperman is thrilled with the upgrade.

“It’s already been invaluable,” she says. “We do a lot of food recovery ourselves, which means picking up food from stores every single morning of the week. Previously we were always short a vehicle and relying on volunteers’ vehicles, but now we can use the hybrid for pickups as well as for delivering hampers. We’re trying to embrace a more environmentally-friendly culture, and we’re really pleased it runs almost completely electric in town.”

Community Care in Action

Rose lights up when talking about the help the Food Bank has received from their extended Cranbrook community and various organizations.

“The support we get is absolutely overwhelming. The Trust, businesses, schools, churches, and individual residents have all been incredible. Now, when we need to do a large drop-off at The Salvation Army or Boys and Girls Club, we’re not scrambling over which volunteer has a truck. Having the SUV PHEV helps us serve our community better.”

The upgrade is a shining example of community care in action, which is increasingly important as rising costs affect many residents.

“We do a hunger count through Food Banks Canada, where they gather data from all the food banks across the country,” Rose adds. “Right now, I think we have close to 2,300 active clients. That’s how we’re impacting Cranbrook, by helping serve our community members that need a hand right now. I think everyone’s feeling the pinch. With the increase in fuel cost, it’s harder to access affordable housing, especially in Cranbrook. It is really, really difficult.”

Streamlining food recovery the hamper delivery process, in part through easier driveability and fuel cost savings, means the Cranbrook Food Bank can focus on doing what it does best: providing caring, nutritious support to community members in need.

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