The Shediac Food Bank now offers an open-concept store, making it a more independent experience for clients, who can now shop around for what they want to eat.

“It also provides dignity to clients. Rather than a drive-thru concept, it’s a country-store environment,” says Mark LeBlanc, executive director of the Shediac Food Bank.

“It’s interactive, so our clients and staff and volunteers are together for a longer period.”

The new structure also reduces food waste and gives staff one-on-one time with clients so they can refer them to services, if needed.

Some of those services include a learning centre, where clients of all ages can earn their GED. A teaching kitchen, greenhouse and a retail store can also be found within the same space as the food bank.

“We are here to help those people in order to be able to make them, first of all, be accountable for their own success, and then to let them go ahead and move on to where they want to be,” says Jill Durepos, a teacher in the learning centre.

Angel Deroche, who is in a recovery program, has been learning to cook in the teaching kitchen, located just across the hall from the food bank.

“It teaches you how to cook with the ingredients that are given at the food bank that you typically wouldn’t think of,” she says.

Those who work in the kitchen say it offers a balance of life skills and also helps build relationships.

“I think it’s also getting people that live in an environment that they don’t have socialization every day, that they can come here and feel that way,” says Bill Farrow, co-founder of the Shediac Teaching Kitchen.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Deroche.

“Where I’m in the rehabilitation centre, it’s teaching me to step out of my comfort zone and be around more people than I typically would be,” she says.

While Social Development has helped with funding, the retail store is the backbone of the food bank, with all proceeds and donations keeping it afloat.

LeBlanc says the newly-renovated space is close to his heart.

“I was a food bank user when I was young and I’ve experienced poverty,” he says.

He hopes the new and improved food bank will make hesitant clients more open to seeking help.