Members of the Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank Society held their Annual General Meeting last week, and heard the disheartening statistics on continued need in Kimberley, but were also heartened by knowing they are making a difference.
Food Bank Coordinator Heather Smith told the meeting that by the end of the Food Bank’s fiscal year, which runs from October to September, 1,598 hampers were given out, which assisted 2,278 adults and 1,561 children at a value of $210,737.62. The Christmas Hamper program gave out 166 hampers at a value of $22,100. Twenty new families were registered during the year. Smith told the meeting that she was grateful for all the volunteers who work with her at the Food Bank.
Next up was Stan Salikin, who delivered the president’s report.
Salikin said that anyone who applies for a food hamper must go through a screening process to ensure they meet requirements, but no one in genuine need or dire straights is ever turned away.
“Clients are treated in a dignified, non-judgmental, caring manner,” he said.
He reports that 2013 was another very busy year for the Food Bank with significant percentage of users (38%) children.
“Increases in living costs impacts on the low income, no income, government assisted people including pensioners, particularly single seniors. Many desperate singles, couples and families with children arrive at our doors in dire straights, some with little or no finances, and some with no place to live.
These are people in despair; they feel hopeless and frantic, without food money or a place to stay. Not all clients are in this category, however many who require assistance have low self esteem and some on the verge of mental breakdown.
“Our Food Bank volunteers are the first responders to these sad situations. They treat everyone who comes through our doors in a respectful, professional and sensitive manner. We are thankful that our Food Bank is able to relieve some of the stress associated with food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.”
Salikin gave a personal thank you to Heather Smith fore her “tremendous dedicated service”.
He went on the thank all those who donate to the Food Bank.
“Without local financial support we would not be able to maintain the high level of food hamper distribution to our clients. The people of Kimberley and surrounding area along with businesses, clubs, churches schools, unions, as well as other organizations are aware of the needs of many of our clients. They are extremely generous.”
But despite all the good help and donations, Salikin said that unless the root cause of food bank use — poverty —is addressed, food banks are here to stay.
“Food Bank clients are people who are at the bottom of the income scale. Average families with average salaries spend about 15 per cent of their income on healthy nutritional food for themselves and their families. Food ban clients would have to spend 45 per cent of their income to provide for their families at the same level. Coupled with the high cost of rent and utilities, which could be as high as 60 per cent of their income, there would be absolutely nothing left over for all the other necessities. The Food Bank plays a very important role in many people’s lives. By helping our fellow human beings who have fallen on hard times due to poverty, illness, family break up and many other reasons, we can and do make a difference.
“Our goal is to continue to provide assistance to people in need for as long as the need exists.”