12 Jan A small store with a big impact
How Buy-Low Foods in Boyle, AB turned things around for its local food bank
Before Boyle Food Bank started receiving regular donations from its local Buy-Low Foods store, it was on the verge of shutting down.
“We relied heavily on community donations, and would get about 2-3 boxes of the basic staples a week,” explains Lisa Cardinal, who manages the food bank, located about 150 km north of Edmonton. As well as serving people in Boyle, the food bank supplies emergency meals to clients from neighbouring communities, including Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement, Newbrook, Colinton and Grassland.
As it was, these donations were barely enough to fill hampers for their 15 or so clients a week, but with the impact of COVID, the number of people seeking meals every week tripled.
“People rely on our food bank just to get by. I can’t imagine how hard these last few years have been on them.”
Lisa did everything she could to increase her food supply, including building a relationship with Lyle Radkewich, the Buy-Low Foods store manager, who helped her shop for the best deals and was able to provide a couple of pallets of food donations here and there and give her access to day-old bread. Even with that, her clients only received basic pantry items, with little hope of being able to purchase the more expensive fresh food items needed to create healthy, balanced meals.
“That all changed when we started working with FoodMesh,” Lisa explains.
People rely on our food bank just to get by. I can’t imagine how hard these last few years have been on them.
– Lisa Cardinal
Since the Boyle Buy-Low Foods joined FoodMesh’s Retail Food Recovery Program in June 2021, Lisa now fills her SUV 2-3 times a day with fresh donations she receives from the store. “We get everything from meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables. My clients were amazed by the kind of products they were able to start taking home!”
As part of the food recovery program, Buy-Low Foods staff now collect all the food they can no longer sell, whether it’s because it is nearing its sell-by date or has aesthetic imperfections, for Lisa to collect, Monday to Friday. Lisa keeps what is edible to distribute to food bank clients, and anything that is no longer suitable for human consumption is picked up by local farmers to feed to their animals. “Now none of Buy-Low’s food goes to waste – it’s great!” she exclaims.
“The food is fantastic quality, and there is enough of it that clients can take as much as they need to create healthy meals for themselves and their families throughout the whole week. Sometimes I need to ask clients to take extra home with them, because there is so much fresh food to go around!”
“Lyle and Buy-Low Foods have been absolutely amazing. Without their help, there is no doubt that there would be no food bank in this community. I would never be able to provide the food that my clients so desperately need. They are an absolute godsend.”
Lisa had herself used the food bank shortly after she first moved to Boyle seven years ago, when her husband’s work slowed down. “Ever since, I’ve wanted to find ways to give back.” Having secured this regular and reliable supply of fresh food donations for the most vulnerable members of her community, she can now do that in abundance.
“It is such a blessing to be part of this program,” Lisa explains. “When I get home at night and share a decent meal with my family, it makes me feel so happy to know that members of my community get to enjoy a decent meal with their families too.”
Lyle and Buy-Low Foods have been absolutely amazing. Without their help, there is no doubt that there would be no food bank in this community.
– Lisa Cardinal
Written by Megan Czerpak, Head of Communications at FoodMesh