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Businesses challenged to stock food bank

Foodworx drive will take place during Crankworx



Does your business care the most about helping your fellow man? Prove it.

The Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is hosting the second annual Foodworx drive, which organizers are advertising as a fun way for businesses to help the community out.

It's a food drive with a twist: businesses are in direct competition with each other to see who can donate the most.

The drive runs throughout the Crankworx festival, from Aug. 6 to 14. Local businesses are asked to set up food donation boxes in their workplace and whichever business donates the largest amount to the food bank by weight will win a two-hour backcountry tour by Canadian Snowmobile Adventures.

All donations will help supply the WCSS food bank for the fall season.

The WCSS will have a tent set up at Crankworx for people to donate their own food products. Each donation will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win prizes, including ZipTrek tours and all-day sailing excursions in the Lower Mainland, among others.

Greg McDonnell, executive director of the WCSS, said the food bank has experienced rapid growth over the last two years. As the community population increases, so have housing prices, and as businesses suffered from the recession, the impact on people's lives was obvious.

"Foodworx is one program of many to address the food need at the food bank in Whistler," McDonnell said, noting that last year's drive brought in over 400 pounds of food.

He said the drive is also designed to educate businesses about how the food bank works and how their donations help WCSS's daily operations - and, in turn, the struggling community members businesses might not otherwise see.

Sara Jennings said that Whistler's slow seasons - spring and fall - tend to be the busiest for the food bank. There may be a lag for people as they move between jobs or wait for jobs to start, and they often have trouble making ends meet.

More than 1,200 people have visited the food bank this year, more than all of 2009. It's a significant number in a town of just under 10,000 permanent residents.

Pique reported in January that roughly 85 per cent of seasonal residents are earning less than the cost of living, up from 66 per cent in 2006 and 70 per cent in 2007.

Food bank visits in Whistler rose 57 per cent in 2009, four times the national average.

"It's been out in the news that Whistler's economy has suffered. If there's an impact on businesses then of course that impacts people," Jennings said.

"The misconception is that (the food bank) serves young adults who are here partying," McDonnell said. "We have regular family users, we have young users, we have family's with children. I think it's a misconception that all the users are party-going young adults. We do have some of those but it's not the total client base."

The food bank is fueled largely by food and monetary donations. And although the demand for services in the summer ate away a lot of its supply for the winter season the community has responded with food drives and donations.

McDonnell said the growing need for the food bank, and for other programs such as the Food Buying Club, mirrors the changing Whistler demographic. As the community grows, it gets more expensive and the demand for charitable food donations reflects that change.



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