The Veterans Food Bank of Calgary is standing up to assist those former and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are struggling.
The only one of its kind in Canada, the Veterans Food Bank of Calgary was established after the city’s Royal Canadian Legion branch announced the closure of the Calgary Poppy Fund, which had been scheduled for Jan. 31, 2019.
The Alberta Legion Command blamed staffing and funding issues for the closure. The Legion said fundraising had become increasingly difficult. However, the food bank’s doors were shuttered for good on Sept. 21. This left supporters scrambling to come up with a new food bank.
Veteran Paul Daniels, one of the food bank’s co-ordinators, says they exist for the sole purpose of helping our forgotten veterans in any way needed. For too long, Daniels noted these heroes and their families have laid everything on the line for Canadians and in some cases, made the ultimate sacrifice. They often suffer in silence.
“When we get out of the military, we tend to isolate ourselves from social situations,” explains Daniels, who served with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada from 1978 to 1984. He noted that veterans don’t want to go to regular food banks because they don’t want to take food away from those who desperately need it. “They have problems transitioning, deciding how they will live their lives and what is the next step to take.”
The Veterans Food Bank has received crucial assistance from the Magic of Christmas, a Calgary-based non-denominational charity, and its president, Allan Reid. Daniels notes there is a need for such an organization.
“They have been very generous with helping us out,” adds Daniels. “It has been a really great match.”
The Poppy Fund estimated it fed between 40 and 100 veterans a month. Organizers appreciate the support of the community and happily surprised at how quickly the food bank is coming together. Just this week, donors came forward with five tons of food.
“We are here for the veterans. That is our mandate,” says Daniels. “Over time we will grow and evolve as they see fit.”
The Veterans Food Bank is establishing a drop-in centre and will be providing referrals for clients who wish to access other services including Can Praxis, a group that uses horses to help soldiers recover, and the Veterans Transition Network. Daniels adds other food banks like this could open up across the country as more people become aware of the struggles facing today’s veterans.
“If we can make a model that other communities can follow, that will be great,” he says.
For more information, check out the website at www.theveteransfoodbankofcalgary.ca. There is also a Facebook page: @veteransfoodbank and a Go Fund Me page: www.gofundme.com/9vy7s-support-for-veterans.