Animal Food Bank opens branch in Merritt

Nicole Frey is the founder of Animal Food Bank. What started as a passion project has now turned into a large operation, spanning three provinces. In its efforts to expand its services, the Animal Food Bank is now looking to start operations in Merritt.

The Animal Food Bank is a non-profit organization that serves pet food and supplies to people’s loyal companions.

“It became a thing, all because I wanted to feed a homeless man’s dog,” she recalls. “I didn’t want him to worry about where the next pet food would come from.”

Originally from Winnipeg, Frey has always had a passion for pets, becoming involved in a dog rescue during his time there. She still wanted to work with animals to some degree after moving to Kelowna, but had no idea what exactly she wanted to do until a fateful encounter in 2019.

“I was in downtown Kelowna at the end of 2019 when I met a homeless gentleman with a pet dog named Odin,” she recalled. “I came home and wondered how this guy feeds his dog? I found out on Google that there were no pet food banks in Kelowna, so I told my husband we needed to start one.

With the help of her husband, Frey started the animal food bank. Since its inception, nearly 6,000 deliveries of pet food and supplies have been made to pet owners in need of assistance. “We are a non-profit organization run by volunteers,” she explained. “We provide pet supplies as well as veterinary supplies, if we have funds for it, to pets of homeless and low-income families.”

The organization’s services span across British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, with approximately 100 volunteers spread across all provinces. To access their services, pet owners can submit an application form available on their website. The application will be received by the corresponding branch for consideration by the branch manager. Once approved, volunteer drivers will deliver supplies to the animal in need.

“It’s a necessary service,” Frey said. “We fill a gap that most people aren’t even aware of. Our organization aims to keep these beloved and happy animals out of these shelters. She notes that there has been a massive disposal of pets across the country following the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Animal Food Bank seeks to prevent this from happening to as many communities as possible.

“We currently do about 100 to 125 deliveries per month in the Okanagan, from Armstrong all the way to Osoyoos, so it makes sense to expand both east and west.”

The Animal Food Bank has a strong working relationship with Pet-valu in Kelowna. Frey spoke with their district manager and found a new opportunity to grow.

“She was mentioning that they were looking for an organization to support in Merritt,” she explained. “I told him we were considering expanding into Merritt and that maybe now was a good time to do so.”

Frey noted that the nonprofit has always served Merritt, helping donate food and water in conjunction with Kamloops’ Four Paws food bank during last year’s flood. The Animal Food Bank is now looking for a team of volunteers to launch its activities in Merritt.

Animal Food Bank volunteers host a pet delivery in the Tulameen area. Photo/Animal Food Bank

“We already have support for pet stores with Pet-Valu, we would just need volunteers and a place to sort inventory, which usually starts with a volunteer garage. Once we have them, we can begin operations.

Frey said the volunteers will help with donation collection, deliveries, fundraising, organizing events and managing social media. For more information on how to volunteer, please message the official Animal Food Bank Facebook page or email [email protected].

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