MV Food Bank has challenges to meet

Madawaska Valley Food Bank, the local non-profit that helps feed Valley residents, has more than one mountain to climb in the next few months. MV Food Bank is searching for a new home – not for the first time, having set up shop in several locations since it began more than 25 years ago in the basement of St. Lawrence O’Toole Church in Barry’s Bay. Its present location at 19460 Opeongo Line (Hwy.60) in Barry’s Bay was generously offered to the Bank by Madawaska Valley Association for Community Living (MVACL). Although the two non-profit organizations have a very friendly and co-operative arrangement, MVACL now requires the premises for its programming needs, so the Food Bank needs to move out before September 30, 2020.

But just as they began the search for new premises, the restrictions required by the COVID-19 virus hit the Valley. In less than a week, the volunteers implemented a series of changes that transformed MV Food Bank from a shopping model to a drive-through model. (above: volunteers Pat McNamara and Chris Thompson carry-out to cars) But it wasn’t just the delivery process that has changed.  Volunteers told The Current that they catered for about 40 percent more clients on March 24th compared to the same period last year. Add to the mix the fact that with Easter coming, the next Food Bank session won’t happen until April 14th – a three week gap for clients to cope with. This adds another level of uncertainty for local people who need help.

MV Food Bank is open twice a month and serves some of the Valley’s most vulnerable residents in Barry’s Bay, Combermere, Wilno, Whitney, Madawaska, and  Palmer Rapids – as defined by the 756, 758 and 637 telephone exchanges. Last fall 35 to 50 households used the MV Food Bank. It was a different story this winter though, with up to 60 households (150 people) per session — households ranging in size from a single person to families with five or more children. And that was before implementation of the latest round of restrictions to prevent spread of COVID-19.

How can you help?

Monetary donations

You can provide monetary support either by e-mail transfers to or by donating online through Canada Helps at


terry-newcombe-seedlingsThe mild spring weather combined with enforced home-stays for many people means that Valley gardeners can get a head start on their seedlings. Barry’s Bay gardener and Food Bank volunteer Terry Newcombe (photo inset with seedlings) asks that as you sow your own indoor veggie seedlings over the next few weeks, please sow extras to donate the resulting transplants to Food Bank clients. Newcombe says, “Nothing — no box of cookies or package of meat, disappears as quickly from our tables as the trays of tomato seedlings every spring.” Local gardening donors get to help their community by doing what they already love doing and the Grow-A-Row program also teaches a valuable skill to families, both adults and their children.

This season your seedlings will also help MV Food Bank deal with a huge increase in the number of its clients due to COVID-19 job losses. You get something fun to do, they get healthy food … everybody wins. All types of seedlings are welcome. To donate, simply label them and drop them off at 188 Paugh Lake Rd in Barry’s Bay, on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. For further information, please call Terry Newcombe at 613-756-3344

Do you have a home for the MV Food Bank?

Earlier this month, volunteers Patricia McLee and Paul Thompson told The Current about the kind of space the  bank needs. They said that MV Food Bank began its house hunt by sharing its list of requirements with the Township of Madawaska Valley, who had previously said, “Let us know what you need from us.” Food Bank directors also undertook a tour of local vacant buildings and spoke with some Valley landlords earlier this year. Now they have gone public with a media campaign, in the hope that someone, somewhere, has a suitable space.


Patricia McLee and Paul Thompson with empty food bank freezer

The Food Bank is very flexible about its needs:

  • 350 square feet, in a lockable part of a building. This could be several rooms. (Additional space for Food Bank clients to use as a waiting area would be nice.)
  • Access for large delivery trucks to get close to the building is essential
  • Some parking for Food Bank clients. (A garage door, loading dock, or the possibility to add one would be helpful.)
  • A minimum of two electrical circuits.
  • Running water is extremely helpful though not essential. Access to a bathroom would also be great. (A home environment with kitchen and bathroom works well and means that the Food Bank can run additional programs for clients.)
  • Access by Food Bank volunteers outside business hours would be helpful but is not essential.
  • A location in Barry’s Bay is preferred (many Food Bank clients and volunteers walk) but other sites would be considered.

What’s in it for you?

In return, MV Food Bank can offer a prospective landlord:

  • As a charitable organization, MV Food Bank is able to issue charitable receipts in lieu of rent.
  • The food bank is able to pay electrical charges and a modest rent, if necessary. (It prefers to spend available funds on food.)
  • The food bank has its own property and general liability insurance.

For more information or to provide help, please email MV Food Bank at

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