Smiths Falls Community Food Bank: Putting the Bank into Food Bank
Build a Mountain of Food (or BAM for short) is a local fundraising campaign that aims to raise money for different food banks in Lanark County and surrounding areas. The campaign visits local grocery stores in various small towns over the weekends leading up to Christmas, raising money and building a mountain of food for the food banks in these small towns. For the most part, it is an excellent initiative raising much-needed cash and supplies for struggling food banks that have seen unprecedented demand in recent times. It’s also great PR for local business owners who get to pose in the newspaper with oversized novelty cheques handed over to food bank staff. It gives you a good feeling knowing that your community cares so much about feeding the hungry. You think about how many people will be helped with all that money. You feel a little less guilty about your planned holiday feast when you donate money to the food bank on your way out of the grocery store.
In one of these small towns, things are a bit different. At the Smiths Falls Community Food Bank, none of the BAM funds raised last year were spent on hungry families, or at all. This food bank’s detailed financial information reveals a surplus far above what it received in monetary BAM donations last year, a pattern that seems to repeat year over year, according to the Canada Revenue Agency. During the 2020 campaign, BAM raised just over $100,000.00 for the food bank in Smiths Falls yet the agency finished its fiscal year with a surplus of well over $160,000.00. Meanwhile, the cash reserve has ballooned to over $650,000.00 or over seven years of operating costs.
According to BAM organizer and Smiths Falls food bank treasurer Leigh Craig, the money in the cash reserve has been set aside for a ‘rainy day’ …whatever that means. We know it doesn’t mean hungry families because it’d be pouring out there if this was in reference to the unprecedented high demand brought on by the global health emergency and soaring inflation. Seven years of operating costs in the bank equals just over 2556 rainy days. And I didn’t see ‘help us save for a rainy day’ advertised on any of BAM’s fundraising materials.
The kind people and businesses that donated money to BAM in Smiths Falls last year expected that money to help feed the hungry now. Not seven years from now, maybe. They did not donate it to sit untouched in the bank, barely even earning interest. Even as a bank, this agency is not doing a good job. This year, if you want to help hungry families in Smiths Falls, consider donating food instead of money to the Smiths Falls Community Food Bank.