BARRIE, ONT. -- The Good Sheppard Food Bank in Alliston has moved to a new, bigger location following a spike in demand over the past year.

“We really wish the numbers didn’t go up, but they are going to go up, and we’re trying to prepare ourselves to grow with the numbers,” said food bank president David Bradbury on Wednesday.

The food bank has been a staple in the town for the last 27 years. Roughly 60 clients visited the new location at 52 Wellington Street West, about a block away from the Victoria Street location, for the first time on Wednesday afternoon.

Bradbury said the demand at the volunteer-run food bank has increased by about one-third since the pandemic began. That demand, and a need for physical distancing, prompted Bradbury to start looking for a larger facility.

“As soon as COVID hit, nobody could come in and shop inside our food bank, so we had to deliver food out into the parking lot,” said Bradbury.

As winter approached, Bradbury and his staff realized they also didn’t want to force clients to wait outside in the cold for an hour or more.

They began looking for a bigger location in July and found the new building in August.

“Other people were saying ‘can you really do it?’ but it all came together,” said Bradbury. He thanked the many volunteers and contractors who helped make it happen.

The previous Victoria Street location was about 1,600 square feet and had a separate 300-square-foot warehouse. The new location is just over 3,000 square feet and has been renovated, painted and boasts new flooring.

“We’re just so thrilled to be in here,” said Bradbury, adding that he hopes he will eventually be able to welcome clients back in to shop from the shelves.

For more information on how to donate to the food bank, click here.