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Students stock second Free Food Shed on opening day in Cochrane

Helping Hands' second Free Food Shed at Bow Valley Baptist Church is ready to serve vulnerable populations on the west side of the community

Cochrane's second Free Food Shed is now open and ready to provide food security to vulnerable populations on the west end of town. 

Students and staff with the Cochrane Learning Centre Building Futures program were on hand March 22 to stock the shed with goodies from the Helping Hands Society's newly acquired moving van, of which they just received the keys for today. 

"We're feeling super excited today, we're really happy," said Helping Hands executive director Chairra Nicolle. "Two new things in one day, two sets of keys — it's fantastic."

It was only a couple months after the first shed opened at St. Andrew's United Church that plans for building a second shed began to form. 

"Once we saw the success of the other one, we knew we needed to open up another one on the West side as well," said Nicolle.

"We do have community members that need support on this side of town and Bow Valley Baptist Church had wanted to partner with us from the very beginning, so it was the perfect location and they were able to provide an electrical connection from their space."

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. Many stop at the St. Andrew's shed each day to check for milk, cheese, yogurt and other perishables or non-perishables.

While the original shed has three doors, one for a freezer, one for a fridge and another for a pantry, the second shed has two doors, one with a residential fridge and freezer combo and the other with a pantry. If one becomes really full, the Helping Hands team, which tends to the sheds every day, can run items back and forth to restock as needed — also adding items from their supply. 

The grant to build the shed was provided by Bow River's Edge Campground's community capital investment initiative to cover the cost of materials and labour. Local Grade 10 students with the Building Futures program, made possible by Kingsmith Builders and Rocky View Schools, completed sketches and ordered supplies to construct the shed while Big Hill Electrical ran the wiring.

Dave Pedersen, a teacher with the Building Futures program, said it was awesome to be able to design, build and stock the shed with the students. 

"To be able to do that full circle was really awesome," said Pedersen, who was also involved in building the first shed.

"One of the coolest things for us has been learning about food security. I knew that the food bank existed, but in talking with Helping Hands, they've mentioned there's a little bit of a disconnect where there's no availability of fresh food."

The food bank primarily carries food that is shelf stable, but the Free Food Shed is able to meet a daily need for both non-perishables and fresh food.

"When we were designing this one, we had to go back to the last one to get measurements and see how everything worked, especially showing this new batch of students everything about the food shed," Pedersen said. 

"While we were at that one taking measurements and stuff there was car after car after car of people coming and dropping stuff off and picking items up, so it's great to see it serving that need."

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