When Nicole Wilks launched the Winnipeg Animal Food Bank in February she knew she would face challenges getting up and running and distributing pet food and supplies to pets in need.
But she had no idea those challenges would include a worldwide pandemic.
Just over a month since starting the Winnipeg chapter, Wilks says the group, which delivers pet food to animal owners who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, is overwhelmed with requests.
“I think it just shows how many people are teetering on food insecurity,” said the former Winnipegger, who founded the national organization from her home in Kelowna in December.
“Our goal is to make sure that people can keep their pets because often their owners don’t have much already, and with COVID-19 it’s certainly not helping.”
Wilks says requests for food and supplies like cat litter jumped from between six and 10 a week when she first started to 38 in one 24-hour span this week alone.
‘It’s been crazy’
In the last week, she said volunteers have dropped off 1,150 lbs. of dry food, 646 cans of wet food, and nearly 1,500 lbs. of litter for more than 70 pet owners across Winnipeg.
The newly-formed group, which relies on donations, is having trouble keeping up.
“It’s been crazy and of course we watched the demand go up and the donations dry-up,” she said.
“Everyone’s losing their jobs and we’re not the first organization that people think to donate to.”
And it’s not just the pets that benefit from the food bank’s service, says Wilks.
“The whole idea is the value that pets add to people, especially if you’re stressed out and that pet’s the only companion you have,” she said.
“One of our drivers who go around and drop off food was telling me today that they went to a gentleman who lives in a rooming house downtown and it’s really just him and his cat.
“So, imagine not being able to feed that cat?”
The food bank is looking for donations of both new and opened pet food, as well as supplies like cat litter.
Food donations can be dropped off in-person at the Pet Valu store on Plessis Road or arrangements for home pickup can also be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monetary donations can be made by purchasing a gift card at the Plessis Road Pet Valu, over the phone by calling the store at 204-222-1155, or by emailing the food bank directly.
For more information on the Winnipeg Animal Food Bank and to request a pet food or supply delivery check out their website.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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