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First of four Helping Hands' food drives set for this weekend

Volunteers will hit the streets of East/Central Cochrane April 23 to collect food donations for the Activettes Food Bank in the first of their quarterly food drives

Around 150 volunteers will be making their way through east and central Cochrane April 23 for Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area's first food drive of the year. 

Residents of East End, GlenEagles, downtown, Glenbow, and Riverview who wish to donate non-perishable food items are encouraged to leave their donations out on their doorstep by 10 a.m. that day for volunteers to pick up. 

"We will have lots of volunteers out with our Helping Hands stickers going door-to-door to collect the donations," said executive director Chairra Nicolle. "They will be knocking on the doors if donations aren't left out.

"This is just as a reminder because we do get about 50 per cent more donations when they knock on the doors. We will be stepping back to allow everyone space as we're still very cognizant of everybody's comfort levels in the community."

This year, Helping Hands made the decision to go bag-less and will no longer be providing plastic bags prior to food drives.

"In coordination with the federal mandate for the use of single plastics, as well as our own values for reducing waste in the community, we have decided not to order any more plastic bags," said Nicolle.

Instead, the non-profit encourages the community to use either a new reusable bag, a plastic grocery store bag, a box, or just leave the items by themselves on the porch for volunteers.

Any plastic bags, she added, will be recycled. 

About 1,300 cases of food were donated to the Activettes last year from all four quarterly food drives. Nicolle said typically, the non-profit will generate anywhere from 150 to 300 cases of food in one drive.

"We know this might look a little different this year just with grocery prices skyrocketing and everybody trying to feed their own families, but we ask if people can donate even one or two items, that would be greatly appreciated," said Nicolle, adding the community's generosity never ceases to amaze her. 

All non-perishable donations are welcome, but this year, the Activettes food drive wish list includes donations of one-litre juices, juice boxes, oatmeal, canned soup, granola bars, fruit cups, canned proteins, dish soap, and laundry detergent. 

"A lot of toiletries are also appreciated because those are things that aren't typically given," said Nicolle.

The Activettes sort through all donations and any items they cannot use then trickle down to Helping Hands for use in their food security programs like Meal Teams, or to stock the free food sheds at St. Andrew's United Church and Bow Valley Baptist Church. 

"If anyone wishes to make a donation of perishable food, we will direct them to one of our two free food sheds," said Nicolle. 

The next food drive will happen May 28 in the western Cochrane neighbourhoods of West Valley, West Terrace, West Pointe, Heartland, Heritage Hills, Bow Meadows, Bow Ridge and Jumping Pound. 

The north and south Cochrane food drives are scheduled for Sept. 22 and Oct. 22. A full schedule can be found here.

Helping Hands is always looking for a few extra volunteers. Those who wish to sign up to help with the food drives can reach out to food@helpinghandscochrane.ca or visit their website, where they can register to volunteer for a number of other community programs.