VICTORIA -- The BC SPCA’s Victoria branch is partnering with local outreach group Cool Aid Society to expand its pet food bank services.

Shortly after the pandemic was declared an emergency in B.C., the Victoria SPCA opened a drop-in pet food bank to help support families who may be struggling financially due to COVID-19. Now, pet food will also be provided to people in need through the Cool Aid Society.

“We have all gone through challenging times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has had a financial impact on many families,” said Annie Prittie Bell, manager of the BC SPCA in Victoria in a release Wednesday.

“The BC SPCA in Victoria was very fortunate to already have strong relationships with community agencies, like the Victoria-based Cool Aid Society, and this allowed us to seamlessly expand our outreach support for pet guardians and help vulnerable animals when the pandemic hit,” she said.

Every two weeks, the Victoria SPCA will provide the Cool Aid Society with hampers of pet food for the organization to distribute among its clients.

Alan Rycroft, community relations manager for the Cool Aid Society, says that the free pet food is a relief for both animals and the people that care for them.

“They end up not just helping the animals have a more stable and consistent diet, but also greatly reduce the stress on pet owners who frequently have to spend money they don’t have to ensure their animals have the best life possible,” said Rycroft.

“I’m sure any pet owner can empathize with the sleepless nights that come from worrying about a sick animal’s health or if you are hurting a pet by feeding them cheap food if that’s all you can afford,” he said.

Anyone looking for support from the pet food bank can visit the Victoria SPCA branch at 3150 Napier Lane on Wednesdays between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., or call the Cool Aid Society at 250-383-1977.

Further north on Vancouver Island, the Campbell River SPCA has also begun offering free pet food for remote communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SPCA branch began working with the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul in July to help deliver the free pet food to communities up to three hours away from Campbell River.

Similarly, the Cowichan and District SPCA branch also expanded its pet food bank services in the summer.

To help connect with pet owners in need, the Cowichan and District branch has partnered with organizations like the Harvest House Food Bank and local RCMP.

“If pet guardians in Cowichan need help at this time, we want them to know we are here to support them,” said Colin Owen-Flood, animal care specialist at the SPCA in Cowichan, at the time.

In Victoria, an increase in demand at the pet food bank has the SPCA branch considering extending its pet food service past the end of the pandemic.