The doors of Surrey Food Bank’s new location in Newton were opened to clients for the first time on Monday morning (July 6).
The organization has found a new home in a 78th Avenue business park, a block and a half west of King George Boulevard.
“This is 10 years in the making,” said executive director Feezah Jaffer as she toured the 23,000-square-foot warehouse.
“It’s kind of surreal, because 10 years of my life have been leading up to this moment for the food bank, which has actually been looking for new space for about 12 years,” Jaffer added. “This is the culmination of that journey, through three different executive directors, different boards, different staff, and we’re finally in our forever home, and it’s awesome.”
The new site is close to three times the size of the food bank’s previous warehouse, which was on City Parkway in Whalley.
The organization outgrew the previous space five or six years ago, Jaffer said.
“We had to have a satellite building for storage in Port Kells, so this consolidates everything into one location here. We no longer need that other storage space, and it’s all under one roof now.
“We now have the ability to receive more donations, more product, storage, and we now have the ability to serve more clients because those numbers are going up especially because of COVID,” Jaffer added. “Our partner organizations now have dedicated space to connect with clients, which is great. The space for staff and volunteers is great too, because in the old space we we all on top of each other.”
A quick tour of @SurreyFoodBank’s big new location in Newton. First day of operations today after decade-long search for new home. “It’s huge for us,” says exec dir Feezah Jaffer. pic.twitter.com/QhYYz5tsW5
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) July 6, 2020
The new site, like the former one, is owned by Surrey Food Bank Society.
Staff and volunteers worked for two weeks to move everything and set up the new hub in Newton.
Jaffer said client reaction to the food bank’s move has been mixed.
“Some have said, ‘Oh, this is wonderful’ but others have said it’s too far for them to go,” she said. “But this space is very central in Surrey, with a bus route on King George and also 132nd (Street), and with more parking. We think it will be OK once people get used to coming here. For our longtime clients it’s an adjustment, especially because we closed for two weeks and now we’ve opened in a new location. My staff has been amazing with the quick changeover, it’s gone really well. We’re very happy here.”
On Monday, four students from Bear Creek Elementary were first to make a donation to the food bank at its new space, with money collected during recent grad fundraisers.
“The Grade 7 grads decided to donate this to the food bank,” said Pam Green, a parent who organized the donation of $567.70, with the help of students Brooklynn Stephenson, Austin Green, Haden Dhillon and Jaychris Lerasan.
“We did go down to the old location on the last day of school but it was closed, so we came flying up to this new location but it was closed as well, during their move, so we’re making this donation here on opening day.”
For clients, the food bank is open five days a week, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Right now, with COVID, we’re still doing pre-built bags of food, and that will continue for the next few weeks at least,” Jaffer said.
“Our new registration have gone up over the past three months, maybe two to five per cent. I’m anticipating a bigger surge in the next two to three months, with a lot of questions still about people going back to work and businesses reopening. It will be a real test to see what kind of numbers we see at that time.”