Do you ever have non-Muslims coming to use the food bank and what happens to them?
Yes. What happens with non-Muslims is when people come in the first time, they would go through eligibility. Part of that eligibility will be, “Do you require any specific food in terms of dietary restrictions?” Now the person will say, “Well, actually no.” [We say], “Well then maybe this is not actually the right place for you.” On the day they arrive, they will never leave without any food. On that day, they will get a hamper and they will get a referral letter to Surrey Food Bank. We’ve got an arrangement with Surrey Food Bank and they know when they get that letter, they will see that client and they will register that client because they know the client has come from us. It does happen occasionally, yes.
Do you get clients coming from outside of Surrey?
We get clients coming from as far as Abbotsford. Langley? They get here. Basically what happens is you normally have one or two volunteers in the community who will actually take it upon themselves and say, “Okay, I will bring five people through today and we will come and collect.” What we also do for the new refugees who have settled in Abbotsford is get someone to collect on their behalf and distribute out there. The benefit of them coming is when they are here, they get linked into other resources and other things.
Some people may say that food is food and it doesn’t matter if the food is in synch with the faith of people that need the food.
I say it’s part of your human right and part of our rights in Canada to be able to live your faith or engage in your faith in a way that is important to you. And if your faith has a part that talks to vegetarianism or halal, then I feel that is as much your right to be able to do that. And people shouldn’t be forced to eat other things just because they happen to be poor. I feel there are enough communities in Canada to be able to support that. I am never thinking that there’s no need for a traditional food bank because there will always be a need for a traditional food bank. But I definitely think there is a need for supplying people with food that they will be comfortable with in terms of eating or in terms of their faith.