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More free food coming to Cochrane

Sketches are complete and supplies have been ordered for a second free food shed which will be built on the west side of Cochrane at the Bow Valley Baptist Church.

Sketches are complete and supplies have been ordered for a second free food shed which will be built on the west side of Cochrane at the Bow Valley Baptist Church.

The Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area opened the first free food shed last May at St. Andrew's United Church at 128 First Street East. Items were being used up in no time, so they started planning to build a second location.  

"We knew pretty quickly based on the popularity that a second one was needed," said Helping Hands food security programs manager April Baird. "We're finding product turns over within 20 minutes, especially in the fridge and the freezer. Sometimes within half an hour, whatever has been put in there can be completely gone." 

The availability of the shed, for some, means not having to make the difficult decision to either feed one's family or pay their rent for the month, she added. Some people stop at the shed each day to check for milk, cheese, yogurt or other perishables and non-perishables.

"There's a lot of people who have stopped by just to say thank you, that this got them through a rough couple months," Baird said. "Some lost their jobs because of the pandemic and this has certainly helped ... there's no questions, there's no judgment, there's no barriers. It's just here."

Baird and Helping Hands executive director Chairra Nicolle said the Bow Valley Baptist Church was interested and provides a good location because it is on the other side of town from the existing shed.

"They kind of do their own little pantry for their congregation right now, so they wanted to expand to the whole community and partner with us." Nicolle said, adding that the project is largely a community effort, just like the first one.

The grant to build the shed was provided by Bow River's Edge Campground's community capital investment initiative and will cover materials and labor, Nicolle said. Kingsmith Builders and high school kids in the Building Futures program have recently completed sketches and ordered the supplies to construct it and then Big Hill Electrical will run the wiring once it is built. An estimated time of completion is not yet clear, Nicolle added.

While the original shed has three doors, one for a freezer, one for a fridge and another for a pantry, the second shed will have two doors, one with a residential fridge and freezer combo and the other will be a pantry, said Baird. If one becomes really full, the Helping Hands team, which tends to the shed every day, can run items back and forth to restock as needed - also pulling from the freezer in their office.

Baird said the shed at St. Andrew's receives a lot of soup, beans and canned vegetables which does get used, but tends to stay there a while.

"We get the question of 'what does the shed need?' a lot," said Baird. "And the very basic, simple answer to that is whatever you feed your family, whatever is in your fridge at home needs to be in this fridge."

With holidays around the corner, Baird said to consider donating items that you would want at your own holiday supper - whether that's a turkey, ham, roast beef, steak and lobster, or something else. Frozen vegetables, pies, instant stuffing and mashed potatoes are also popular. 

For those that may be leaving town for the holidays, Nicolle added that the shed at St. Andrew's acts as the perfect opportunity to reduce food waste and donate unopened items that may have already been purchased but won't be consumed.