New Brunswick

Old Harbour Bridge building finds new life as warehouse for food banks

Eight years after tolls were removed from the Saint John Harbour Bridge, the administration building has been turned into a refrigerated warehouse for food banks in the region.

New Brunswick Association of Food Banks grateful to Port Saint John for donated efficient space

Ralph Wood, chairman of District 4 of the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks, described the new storage facility as 'beautiful' and more efficient. (CBC)

Eight years after tolls were removed from the Saint John Harbour Bridge, the administration building has been turned into a refrigerated warehouse for food banks in the region.

Ralph Wood, chairman of District 4 of the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks, is "over the moon" with the new facility on the city's west side.

"This is a major improvement," he said.

Until now, the local district, which assists about 60,000 people a year through its 13 food banks stretching from St. Stephen to Hampton, used a 40-foot refrigerated shipping container and 43-foot highway trailer on port property in the south end to store donated food.

But the trailers were both "long in the tooth" and left the volunteers, many of whom are elderly, exposed to the elements when they loaded and unloaded supplies.

Volunteer Terry Stillwell said the new facility will make it much easier for volunteers when the 10 to 12 pallets of frozen food donations come in every six weeks or so and the 13 food banks come to pick up their share. (CBC)

"We would keep the freezer unit there at -23 [Celsius]," said long-time volunteer Terry Stillwell. "Many days down on the waterfront the wind would be blowing, we would have to go into that [unit] to keep warm. It was brutal."

The charity organization approached its long-time partner Port Saint John about finding a new location and it offered to lease the former bridge administration building for $1 a year. It also offered to help transform the space.

The group also managed to secure a $65,000 grant from Enterprise Community Partners through Food Banks Canada to install a custom-built walk-in freezer.

"It's just a tremendous facility; so much easier for the volunteers to work out of and we're just delighted and overwhelmed and so happy with this new unit," said Stillwell.

It measures about 22 feet by 18 feet and 10 feet high with a large garage big enough to back trucks right in, he said.

"It's just a whole new ball game; totally awesome."

Wood said it can accommodate a full trailer load of frozen food "no problem" and has space for non-perishables as well.

"Food banks supply a very necessary, unfortunately, social need and this just makes our task a little more efficient and secure."

Paula Copeland, director of corporate communications and social responsibility at Port Saint John, is delighted to see it come together after months in the making.

"We really feel grateful that they're able to help people in our city," she said.

"It made me feel good that we were able to contribute to that as a company."

With files from Graham Thompson

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