By Roy L Hales for Cortes Radio
The Surge Narrows grocery delivery program’s origins go back to October 2019. A North Rendezvous Island resident, Judith Wright, organized a group run for four or five families every two weeks. After COVID-19 hit, close to half of the permanent residents of the Rendezvous, Read, Maurelle, and Sonora Islands took advantage of the SRD Delivers program to have their groceries delivered every week for three months. While the funding ended in mid July, the Surge Narrows grocery delivery program proved to be so effective that it continues today.
Enter SRD Delivers
The transition began after Strathcona Regional District (SRD) protective services coordinator Shaun Koopman advised a Read Island-based accountant about the SRD funding program to help community organizations provide assistance with grocery shopping, the delivery of food, prescriptions and other essentials for the benefit of the elderly (65+) and other vulnerable persons who are self-isolating.
Ginny Vassal explained, “I started thinking,oh my goodness, what an opportunity. We don’t want people going to town, but they need to get supplies. Our population is pretty close to 50 per cent seniors, actually 47 per cent. All of a sudden, SRD was making made it possible for people not to go to town. The maximum grant was $5,500. We applied and we’re very grateful to get the full amount.”
Vassal wrote up the grant application.
An ongoing delivery system
The delivery system coordinator Wright, added SRD Delivers “helped cover the shipping costs for seniors and has been a useful buffer as we work the bugs out of the system. Because of the aid, we have been able to establish a reliable food delivery system that can be ongoing.”
Around 30 families continue to place their orders on Fridays and later converge on the tiny community of Surge Narrows, on Read Island, to pick up their food.
Vassal explained this has become a weekly social event.
How the Surge Narrows grocery delivery program works
While most of the orders are placed through Save on Foods, they have also used a "ferry godmother service" to shop at Costco and Superstore. The groceries are brought to Surge Narrows by water taxi, where Wright and her helpers are waiting to sort them. Most of the orders are picked up within two and a half hours of their leaving Campbell River.
Considering trips to Campbell River are usually all day affairs, the benefits of this system immediately became apparent.
“One of our residents worked out that a trip to town, in the summertime, can cost as much as $200. So paying a few dollars more on your groceries is cheap,” Vassal said.
Consequently, “there have been no drop-outs in subscriptions” since the SRD stopped providing funding.
She added there are around 30 household in the program and slightly less than half of them will order in any given week.
Rendezvous, Read, Maurelle and Sonora Islands
An informal population survey of the region, from 2018, found there are 131 full time residents in this area and another 105 part time.
“Every single home is off-grid, solely heated by wood burning stoves. Our only access to ‘civilization’ is by boat and can be in challenging weather and waters.”
Top photo credit: Water taxi arrives at Surge Narrows – courtesy June 2020 edition of Surge Currents