More Food… For the Brain

It’s been a couple of days since we all stuffed ourselves with ham and Easter eggs, or traditional Passover food. So I thought I’d give you another take on a food topic – our local food bank.

I wrote about this over two years ago, on October 6, 2020, after I had started a program with the food bank down the street. I first noticed that the children, wandering along aimlessly as their parents chose carbs, dairy, canned goods and protein, were looking a little bored with the line-ups and the tedium of it all. What could I give them to take home for themselves?

How about some food for the brain – reading? I approached the local library where the head librarian was delighted to give me children’s books recently culled from her collection. I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of books, but it all got sorted out and we were on our way to a successful literacy program.

Since then the numbers of families using our food bank have almost tripled. When the pandemic caused companies to shut down, more people were out of work and in need of a helping hand at their dinner table. Then the war in Ukraine sent refugees fleeing to our neighbourhood. And lately the stock market and food supply chains have felt the influence of world tensions in the far and middle east, causing unprecedented inflation. Parents have little money for food, never mind books.

Through all of this we have found lots of book donors. Many well-off families are more than anxious to clean out basements and attics if they think their beloved children’s books are going to a good cause. Grandparents tear up as they donate books, fondly remembering reading Good Night Moon to the grandchildren nestled on their laps. We discovered a Value Village nearby with shelves loaded with all sorts of children’s books in good condition, for only $1.59 each. Add a seniors’ discount on Tuesdays and the cost is just about $1.00 per book.

Then a local entrepreneur, looking for a project, found us. He partnered with his Rotary Club and together they located a couple of high schools looking for community hours for teen volunteers. The enterprising teens gather up more books than we can handle, so we have had to start buying second-hand bookcases for extra storage.

There have been other issues besides storage. Sometimes the weather wreaks havoc on our clients waiting in line outside, not always dressed for Canadian winters or spring hail storms. Sometimes clients become so frustrated that they try to butt ahead in the line. Occasionally a customer tries to utilize the services of 2 food banks in the same week. But, for the most part, people are pleasant and appreciative.

And the biggest improvement? I now have 3 other volunteers to assist. Jessica, a retired librarian, joined me almost 2 years ago. And Catherine, a former book store employee, signed up in the fall. Together we have access to more books, and we can spell each other off for vacations or family emergencies. And this past winter Agnes, my 11-year-old grand daughter who donated a lot of her favourite books, said she would like to help out too. She has first-hand knowledge of many books, and I often hear her telling a younger reader, “That was my favourite book when I was your age.” Ahh… the wisdom that comes with getting old!

Agnes sets out books at the food bank

Last Saturday, the day before Easter, the food bank was very busy. The buzz in the air was palpable as people grabbed up much-needed food for their holiday meals. And the looks on the faces of the kids as they reached for a new book? Priceless. We smiled, knowing that they would be sharing their book with their moms or dads, and that everyone would benefit from this literacy experience.


7 thoughts on “More Food… For the Brain

  1. What a lovely and generous project!! Trust a former teacher to think of books rather than chocolate. That’s a far longer lasting treat. Unfortunately my grandchildren are cats so I can’t contribute any books. If you decide to provide the adults with books let me know since I have lots.


  2. WONDERFUL. Great idea. You are an amazing lady. Thank you. We often forget that the society is in need of food for thought as well. Any education through reading and any moment when a person forgets its pain while s/he is in the story of a book it is a gain and can help the person.


  3. I must comment upon the variety of topics that you cover, based on first hand experience/involvement. It is very impressive indeed. You (and Peter, your partner in crime) manage to range far and wide to cover a wealth of topics. Well done, and keep up the good work!

    Tom Kolin


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