More people in the Battlefords are asking for help from the food bank and donations haven’t been keeping up with the increase.
Erin Katerynych, executive director of the Battlefords District Food and Resource Centre, said the average number of clients each month is more than 2,000, up from approximately 1,600 per month in 2015.
“The economy, affordable housing and lack of it, lack of childcare — all these things add up,” Katerynych said. And the numbers typically grow in September, when parents need to spend additional dollars on school supplies and new clothes and need to prepare school lunches.
Fifty per cent of the food bank’s users are children. Katerynych hopes the federal government’s increased child benefit payments will help ease that burden.
“We get a lot of single parents. That’s one of our major groups,” she explained. “And then a lot of single people who have different issues in their lives that they’re working through, whether they have disabilities like issues with their backs, or mental health issues.”
The good news for the food bank and its clients is that produce from gardens has started to arrive. Katerynych said those donations usually cover the need for vegetables into October. But they need donations of non-perishable items like canned vegetables, rice and pasta, as well as baking ingredients. There are some such items that they now have to omit from hampers.
“Right now miscellaneous mix kits, like SideKicks, just to add to a meal, because the vegetables are coming in quite regularly right now, like beans and cucumbers, which is really helpful. But we need stuff like the rice, the carbs, to go along with it,” she explained.
The centre’s list of the 10 most wanted items also includes peanut butter, breakfast cereal, one-litre juice, baby food, and canned meat, fish, and stew.
The food bank has turned to social media, hoping to encourage donations through the One Bag Challenge that began in British Columbia when Kelowna’s mayor donated a bag of food and asked others to do the same. A major annual campaign, Hunger Awareness Week, is also just around the corner in September. But until then, Katerynych said it’s a slow period.
“It’s summertime. Our donations are down, our numbers aren’t dropping, so we’re in need of some donations around here.”
Geoff Smith is battlefordsNOW's News Director, business and agriculture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @smithco.
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