Feature Story               Sunday, December 14, 2014



Salvation Army Food Bank 'Mobbed'

Chilliwack community responds to a novel way of giving 

Staff/Voice photos


Drivers didn't even need to get out of their vehicle to make a donation to the local food bank on Saturday. Below, councillor Chris Kloot quietly tucks some cash into a kettle.


A drive-thru Food Mob. What a concept. It was the first of its kind Saturday in Chilliwack – or anywhere else in the known universe for that matter, and it took donating food to a whole new level.

For 2 hours on Saturday, it was all a well-oiled machine in the Salvation Army church parking lot on Brooks Ave. Like an auto assembly line; a steady stream of vehicles flowed in, opened doors, popped trunks, food was handed-off to volunteers, who sorted it, palletized it, and a forklift packed away the skids.

This was one of those things the whole community can enjoy doing together in the run up to Christmas and the New Year.

It was festive too. Local radio station 89.5 The Drive brought their seasonal selection of music. There was dancing and singing. Some familiar faces at the event included; councillors Sue Attrill, Jason Lum, Kris Kloot and MLA John Martin. Wheeler Cheam Realty and Envision Credit Union supplied the tents and Decades Coffee Club supplied the hot chocolate.


You could say that "Food Mob" was invented by Chris Reitzma, School District 33 Work Experience teacher. He saw a photo of empty skids in the Salvation Army food storage warehouse and decided to do something to help. So, he got together with Care and Share Centre manager Tim Bohr, and the rest is history.


"I was inspired by a recent article about how the Salvation Army has really been hurting, and the level of donations has really been down this year, and their level of use has been up," he told The Voice.


In the past, Reitsma enjoyed patronizing local businesses with the Cash Mobs. So, he applied the same kind of philosophy to Food Mob.


"Just looking back at the old Cash Mobs that we did locally worked really well, and I just had a flash one day, and thought, 'let's bring people together and fill the food bank.'"


Then, the idea really found its legs on the floor of the House of Commons, when MP Mark Strahl spoke about the Food Mob.


In the video clip, Strahl points out how Reitzma wanted to "harness the power of social media to mobilize the community" and help restock the local Salvation Army shelves.


“Like the cash mobs that started in late 2011, a food mob uses social media to encourage individuals to arrive at a set location at a specific date and time. Unlike a cash mob, where participants are encouraged to spend cash to support a local business, participants in a food mob are encouraged to make a donation of a non-perishable food item," he explains in the minute-long clip.


Reitsma said he was astonished when he saw the video of Strahl talking about his idea in the House of Commons. 


He knew the community would rally, but said the online response was overwhelming and more than he "ever could've imagined."


"I think it's tremendous. It was unexpected and totally unsolicited. So, it was a pretty nice surprise when word got back to me."


Strahl, who was there dropping off a couple of bags of food, said he managed an ovation from fellow MPs, who were puzzled about it at first.


"I think 'Food Mob' sounded like a buffet or something like that. But when I got to the end, and described it as way to overwhelm the food bank, there was good applause from all sides of the House," he told The Voice.


"I think it's a unique thing that people haven't heard of it before and you can see how well Chilliwack responded to it. It's been great. The shelves were bare and they won't be at the end of the day," he said pointing to a skid of food.


Apparently, lots of people got the message. Reports were that over 18,000 food items and approx $2000 in cash was donated, including a $500 cheque from local CUPE 411 members dropped off by president Rod Issac. Chilliwack Minor Hockey teams also got into the action with an off-ice tourney amongst themselves to see who could raise the most food and cash.











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