Nanaimo Airport’s food drive will benefit Ladysmith Food Bank

The CAN-nection Campaign is collecting food donations for five regional food banks, including the one in Ladysmith.

Jacquie Stewart

The Nanaimo Airport has partnered with local businesses to feed the needy this holiday season.

Through its CAN-nection Campaign, participating businesses hope to “stop hunger in its tracks” via an ambitious new food drive designed to collect food for five regional food banks.

The goal of this year’s campaign is to complete a six-car “train” in the airport’s main lobby by stacking a total of 4,000 cans of food onto a chain of flat-deck carts, said airport CEO Mike Hooper. The train’s “engine” has been completed, Hooper added, and their next goal is to complete the caboose.

Once the train has been completed, Hooper said they’ll distribute the proceeds to five of the region’s food banks, namely in Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Duncan and Parksville.

Hooper said the idea originated with Sandra Petryk, the airport’s marketing manager, during a summer brainstorming session. The airport’s management team embraced the idea and reached out to sponsors Fairway Market, Dodd’s Furniture, Air Canada and Glacier Media.

“This is our inaugural year,” Hooper said, “so we’re going to use this as a kick-off and we’re looking to grow the campaign with community partners.”

Hooper said airport employees have participated in food drives in the past, but prior campaigns haven’t been “as large and structured” as this year’s CAN-nection Campaign. Next year, Hooper said they’re hoping to expand the campaign by transforming it into a competition where participants from the community build structures or statues using donated cans of food.

Donors to this year’s campaign will be eligible to win prizes. Anyone making a donation at Dodd’s Furniture will be eligible to win a $500 gift certificate from Fairway Market while those making donations at Fairway will be eligible to win a pub-style table set from Dodd’s.

The airport’s hosting its own Whistle Stop Community Challenge to promote the campaign, offering anyone dropping off food donations at the airport a chance to win return airfare for two to anywhere campaign sponsor Air Canada flies in North America.

Jacquie Stewart,  co-ordinator of the Ladysmith Resource Centre Association (LRCA) Food Bank, said Christmas is the busiest time of the year for the food bank, adding that she hasn’t had time to spread the word regarding the airport’s CAN-nection Campaign since she first learned of it a few days prior to our conversation.

It won’t take long before the Ladysmith food bank’s share of the proceeds are handed out to needy members of the community, though.

“If we’re giving people tins of soup,” Stewart said, “we’ll go through 23 dozen a week.”

Stewart said they distribute a similar number of tins over the course of an average week if planned meals include tinned chili or stew, adding that the average volume parcelled out tallies to “well over 20 dozen.”

Stewart credited the generosity of Ladysmith’s residents with helping to ensure the food bank is well enough stocked to meet the demands of the 400 people — 40 per cent of whom are teens or children — who rely on its services for a food subsidy each week.

“This is an extremely generous town,” Stewart said. “I’ve never seen such generosity. They just keep us going.”

The town’s churches play their part, too, Stewart said, by collectively managing the food bank and paying its rent.

The food bank is most in need of “tinned meats, tinned stews, tinned chilies, peanut butter” and other forms of protein, Stewart said. She asked that people refrain from donating homemade preserves or pickles, however, adding that they’re not allowed to distribute such items due to food safety regulations.

The LRCA Food Bank is located at 630 Second Ave. and opens its doors to anyone in need of assistance on Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon.

Donations to the CAN-nection campaign can be made at the Nanaimo Airport and at the Nanaimo locations of Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress and Fairway Market.

Donations will be accepted until Mon, Jan. 7.

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