Food Bank use remains high

Numbers have yet to fall to pre-recession levels nationally and locally

Food Banks Canada has released its annual study of food bank usage across the country, and it indicates that need remains near record highs.

The report took a look at usage during one random month earlier this year and found that 833,000 people, one third of them children, relied on food banks during that time. That was down only slightly from 872,379 the previous year.

Of greatest concern to Food Banks Canada is that food bank use still remains higher than it was before the recession hit. It is a national problem and no region is without it.

In British Columbia, 19,002 people were assisted by a Food Bank in March 2013.

In this area, a study called Food Banks of the Columbia Basin, found that during a test month in 2012, 4,175 people were served.

Right here in Kimberley, food bank use has remained at about the same level for the past several years. In March 2012, the Helping Hands Food Bank served 320 people, about a third of them children.

Heather Smith from Kimberley’s Helping Hands Food Bank agrees that numbers remain much higher than she’d like to see. Food Banks Canada also says that a big portion of food bank users are the working poor, and Smith says that is definitely the case in Kimberley.

“We have a lot of clients who work casual and part-time. $10 an hour for two hours doesn’t get you very far. And a lot of people have child care as well.  We don’t have homeless people with absolutely no place to go. Our people couch surf. TIn reality they are homeless but they are okay as long as they have someone to stay with.”

But the majority of the Kimberley Food Bank’s clients are those on fixed  income, such as disability pensions.

“And seniors,” Smith said. “The number of seniors is shocking. It’s gone from one per cent of our clients ten years ago to six per cent now. That’s a horrendous increase.”

The Helping Hands Food Bank is now gearing up for the Christmas hamper campaign. In a typical year the Food Bank hands out about 200 hampers at Christmas. Part of the fundraising for that is the Angel Tree program. The trees will begin appearing next week in local businesses and offices.

One of the things that has always been true of the Kimberley Food Bank is that it receives tremendous community support.

“We are very good with volunteers. It’s surprising how many people support the food bank, both weekly and at Christmas. Our organization is all volunteer, there are no paid employees. That’s very much in the minority for food banks.”

Hampers go out on December 20 this year, and the only area where extra help may be needed is with getting the groceries into the Anglican Church Hall on Thursday, December 19.