Care or confusion? 3 organizations vie for veterans food donations ahead of Remembrance Day

This Remembrance Day, Calgarians have three options when it comes to donating food to veterans.

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The Veterans Food Bank of Calgary, Veterans Association Food Bank and the Calgary Food Bank have stepped in to fill the void, after the original Veterans Food Bank abruptly closed in September.

“It’s obviously [something] that the city needs, the veterans need and it just can’t close, so we decided to go on our own,” said Allan Reid, the founding partner of the Veterans Food Bank of Calgary.

For the time being, Reid has set up shop in the same location as his charity, the Magic of Christmas, an organization that hands out gifts annually to Calgary’s less fortunate.

“We’ve got 50 or so [food] hampers ready to go. We get calls daily from our resource partners and donors. The public has been amazing,” Reid said.

The other organization making its first Remembrance Day push for donations is the Veterans Association Food Bank, which opened its doors in northeast Calgary in October.

That group defines itself by being supported and operated by veterans.

“There was a need for veterans to have food for veterans,” said Wayne Menard, a volunteer at Veterans Association Food Bank. “We’re setting up now and we’ll have a lounge and everything… so they can sit around with other veterans and talk.”

In September, the Calgary Poppy Fund–which operated and ultimately shut down the original Veterans Food Bank–announced it was partnering with the Calgary Food Bank to “better support veterans in the Calgary community.”

The Calgary Food Bank expects to hand out about 100 food hampers per month to veterans in need and is in talks with the Poppy Fund about when it will receive the original Veterans Food Bank’s leftover donations.

While the long-serving, registered charity is expected to roll out a program that meets the specific needs of veterans, there are those who believe there should be separate food banks for civilians and veterans.

“Military types are very independent-minded, so the Veterans Food Bank is able to accommodate how our thoughts are changed by our training,” veteran Bonnie Critchley said.

Master Cpl. Critchley, a former client of the original Veterans Food Bank, is among those who have thrown their support behind the Veterans Food Bank of Calgary.

“Having to come to ask for help is hard, it is extremely hard, so having a special place like this is crucial if we’re going to get guys the help they need,” Critchley said.

Master Cpl. Bonnie Critchley said she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder after being the military chaplain’s driver and was in close contact with families of fallen soldiers.

But experts warn the duplication of services may only complicate matters further.

“It can be very confusing for the public and for the clients who use those services to have multiple charities offering a similar product,” said James Stauch with the Institute for Community Prosperity. “The more these services that can be streamlined is actually better.

“To the community, there is already the Calgary Food Bank, which has a really sophisticated supply chain and is well-recognized, so why wouldn’t we use the Calgary Food Bank?”

Reid’s theory on why the groups splintered focuses on the sudden closure of the original Veterans Food Bank.

“We could have easily had multiple meetings with all of the interested parties in the four months that we originally had,” he said. “When the note went up on the door, it threw everybody behind the eight ball… everybody went in their own direction.”

Both officials at the Veterans Association Food Bank and Reid expressed interest in one day moving towards a single veterans’ food bank to help those in need.

“I think not working together is short-sighted and hurts the cause,” Reid said.

In response to an interview request related to donations, spending and why the Veterans Food Bank program was discontinued, Chris Strong with The Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Command referred Global News to September documents that suggested the change would “allow The Royal Canadian Legion to direct funds more effectively to services and supports that address the diverse needs of all veterans in our community with the assistance of The Royal Canadian Legion service officers.”

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