Whenever you make policies for the best of reasons, there are consequences. After struggling for months with running out of key food items (e.g., milk, fresh food, dairy) and even running out of food together, staff decided we needed to more strictly enforce our “two visits each month” rule. While most people respected the rule, a few community members came every week. Typically, those who came every week came early and always got the “good stuff”. What was happening now was simply not fair. So in August we let people know early and often that the rule would be enforced. We provided handout sheets of other local area food banks. We notified people that they could come to our Tuesday dinner every week and of the location of other free meals in the neighbourhood. Since August was a three-Wednesday month, we even allowed for a third visit “this one last time”.
By the fifth Wednesday almost everyone had been through three times. Our numbers that day were one-third of normal. We had fresh food left over. To be fair to everyone, we had to turn away a couple of people who tested our resolve by coming a fourth time (they know we are normally push overs). We felt rotten doing what we believed was the right thing. But it was not all horrible. One community member came up to me and said that we should have done this long ago as it was fair to the entire community. Another community member complimented us on the fact that we gave out so much more food than another local food bank. Many of those who came yesterday were delighted that they received so much healthy food; something that they had not always received in the past. And a couple of local agencies doing really good work were thrilled to receive our left over healthy, fresh food.