PORT ALBERNI, B.C. -- The Salvation Army in Port Alberni has opened its first satellite community pantry, called the Food Cupboard, where people can come and donate food or take what they need.

The Food Cupboard is stocked with non-perishable food and hygiene products.

“When you do find yourself in need, you’re welcome to come and take whatever you need to help you get by,” says Capt. Michael Ramsay of the Salvation Army in Port Alberni.

The concept is very similar to community library boxes where residents of a neighbourhood can take or leave a book.

“Why not apply it to the necessities of food as well?” asks Ramsay.

The group got the idea from watching a story CTV News Vancouver Island aired in December about a similar project in Victoria

The pantry is located on the 5100 block of Tebo Avenue in Port Alberni. The Salvation Army says it was placed in an area where people have trouble accessing resources like the food bank because of their location.

Since the pandemic hit, the need for food donations a risen dramatically in the Alberni Valley.

Before the pandemic, Ramsay says, the food bank and soup kitchen were feeding 100 to 200 people a week. Now, they are feeding 400 to 500 people per day.

Since local community organizations launched the Alberni COVID-19 Community Response back in March, the Salvation Army has fed and cared for people more than 100,000 times in the valley alone.

“The need has been far greater than anybody could ever anticipate,” adds Ramsay. “We are just very thankful because the the community has come together in the way that it has so that we are able to continue to meet that need.”

People are welcome to stock the food cupboard themselves, or they can drop off their donations at the Salvation Army, located at 4835 Argyle St. in Port Alberni.