This week I visited Dot Pal. The Amherst News recently devoted an article for Dot’s great work with the Pugwash Open Hamper Food Bank. Work for which she was awarded the YMCA Peace Medal for 2019. You can read about her work HERE. To add to this article I thought I’d ask Dot a little bit more about the food bank. What if I was in need of it? What should I expect if I showed up? Where would I go? What is the process?
First thing first; everyone is welcome at the food bank. Located in the lower level of the Pugwash North Cumberland Memorial Hospital, The Pugwash Open Hamper is open every Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm. When you come in, you will need to register. This step is to collect simple information such as name and contact, family size, diet restriction. It will be useful to you, the volunteers, and FEED Nova Scotia from which a lot of the food comes from. You will then get a grocery list on which you check the items you wish to receive. While a volunteer takes care of your order, you are welcome to help yourself to any food that is placed on a cart in the hallway. There you may find snacks, household cleaner, anything that might have come in surplus that week. In season you will also find fresh picked produce from the food bank community garden.
A few years ago, Dot approached the Pugwash Village Commission to see if a vacant lot could be turned into a community garden. After much work, multiple donations, and the effort of various community members, the garden, located behind the village drugstore is now providing clients and volunteers with an abundance of seasonal vegetables. “The clients get to pick what they want to grow “ says Dot. “We grow beets, peas, string beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, chard, zucchini… the list goes on” she adds. In season produce is picked on Wednesday morning and brought to the food bank for distribution in the afternoon.
It only makes sense that once you grow food, you cook food, and so the Sharing Kitchen program was started with recipes that could be made from ingredients found at the food bank and, in season, with produce from the garden. When last summer came along, the Sharing Kitchen adapted its menu to accommodate the children that participated. “Once we made protein balls. Some kids loved them so much they started to make them at home” said Dot. “We also found out that older kids became more involved cooking meals at home”.
It seems to me that The Pugwash Open Hamper Food Bank is much more than a place to get food if you are in need. It is a place where you will find community, where you are welcome to participate in growing and cooking food. A place where learning comes from all directions and paths of life.
It takes a community to make such services happen but it also takes someone with vision and faith. More than once Dot was told her ideas would not work, that nobody would participate. From what I’m told and what I’ve seen, not only every endeavor took root but they grew, and are still growing.
There is a secret behind it all. When asked by a class of grade ten students why she was doing all this work, Dot responded : “It makes me happy. If I wasn’t happy doing this I wouldn’t be a good volunteer”. And that is what you will find if you are part of that community. Be it a client, a volunteer, or both.
The Pugwash Open Hamper Food Bank is open every Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm and is located in the lower level of the Pugwash North Cumberland Memorial Hospital.
Food donations can be placed in the large box at the entrance of the Pugwash Coop.
On it you will find a list of most needed items.
For information on the Sharing Kitchen and community garden, you can text or call Dot Pal at 902-664-8691
Donations are always appreciated to help sustain all these programs.
Dot Pal, on the left, with volunteer Judith Rickard at the Sharing Kitchen in Pugwash.
photo credit : Norene Smiley