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Food bank demand continues to rise
With the growing number of Canadians using food banks across the country, Trail’s food bank is no exception.
Tuesday, an hour before the 10 a.m. opening, the Trail United Church basement was already a beehive of activity, with volunteers preparing to feed over 100 people as they had the week previous.
Three times this year, the demand has emptied the United Church’s pantry and no funds were left to purchase the staple soups and canned vegetables.
Because the food bank purchases groceries with money donated from the community, the volunteers kept their fingers crossed the next donation was on the horizon.
“Volunteers just go out and buy at the case lot sales, with their own money, and hope to get reimbursed,” said Eleanor Harper, volunteer at the food bank since 2005.
Brad Longstreet, a client and volunteer, who oversees the pantry inventory, at both the Trail United and St Andrews Anglican church food banks has watched the numbers grow.
“In July 2011, there were 70 people using the food bank each week. That number doubled by January (2012), when we saw 140 people coming in to use the food bank.”
The same is true at the food bank hosted once a month by the St Andrews Anglican Church.
“About four years ago we were feeding up to 50 people. Today we are feeding over 100 people,” said Canon Neil Elliot.
“Our patrons are not street people, we are seeing a whole range of people needing the help, particularly families who are the working poor.”
The Salvation Army Food Bank, at Kate’s Kitchen, also reports the growing number of families with young children coming in for food hampers.
“Our food hampers have increased by 10 per cent since this time last year,” said Linda Radtke, Salvation Army Community Service manager.
“We have seen a big increase in use of our soup kitchen as well, and it’s mostly families with young children,” she added.
In October, statistics released by Food Banks Canada, showed that food bank use in British Columbia increased by 6.6 per cent – more than double the rise of 2.4 per cent across Canada.
Although the statistics and published reports more Canadians turning to food banks paint a grim picture, the atmosphere in Trail’s food banks give a sense of welcome and community.
The sounds of conversation, laughter and clink of coffee cups reflected another usual day at the United Church food bank.
“We invite everyone to come in out of the cold to have coffee together and make a sense of community,” said Harper.
“Fifty per cent of the reason that people come here is to socialize,” added Longstreet.
St Andrews food bank is also more than food source to its people.
“We don’t just provide a bag of food for people, we invite them in to sit down, have lunch, and feel a part of the community,” said Elliot.