Four hundred. That is the number of Christmas hampers the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank expects to distribute after registration for the program closes Dec. 3.
Having signed up roughly 300 households as of last week, the food bank appears on pace to eclipse last year’s total of 325 hampers handed out – evidence of rising demand for food bank services.
The food bank has signed up more than a dozen new households in the past two weeks, executive director Bev Elder said. While Christmas is always a busy period for the food bank, demand is higher outside the holiday season.
“We don’t have any extra food right now,” Elder said. “We probably only have enough food for maybe six weeks.”
This current state reflects several factors, starting with rising costs, including for food itself.
“It’s definitely going to make more people come and use the food bank,” she said of rising inflation. “The cost of food has gone through the roof.”
These increases have also impacted the food bank itself, she added. “What we used to be able to purchase for a $1 now is now $2 or $3.”
This said, the food bank has not yet had to curtail its spending due to inflation. Other things have had an effect, however, including severe weather that has disrupted supply lines in B.C.
“With everybody hoarding, we can’t get our hands on food to purchase,” she said. “Where we order from the warehouses, they are trying to stock their stores, so they put limits on how much the stores can order. We are lumped into that. If I would normally order 30 cases of something, I can only order one or two cases of it.”
Items in short supply include school snacks and personal hygiene items.
These various challenges co-exist with changing circumstances. Large one-time donations by the three Saanich Peninsula municipalities from their COVID-19 safe restart grants helped the food bank bridge gaps caused by a drop in donations and the rise in demand.
“Those large donations let us purchase a lot more a fresh produce, a lot more healthier choices,” Elder said. “We stretched it by buying some different types of protein for people.”
Receiving the restart grant money was nice, she added, but such influxes of cash are never counted upon.
Other developments offer positive news. The Peninsula Firefighters Christmas Food Drive resumes for 2021 on Dec. 11 after being cancelled in 2020. Its return will bring in much-needed supplies while also helping restore a sense of normalcy, Elder said.
This said, the food bank welcomes donations at any time, but with one pointed reminder from Elder:
“Do not give us garbage,” she said. While the Thanksgiving Food Drive in the fall yielded a total 22 pallets of food, volunteers dispose the equivalent of seven pallets.
“If you won’t eat it, don’t give it to the food bank. It costs me (money) to throw it away, so you are not doing us any favours.”
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