Recession still taking a toll on central alberta food banks

It’s going to be a long, slow climb back to self-sufficiency for food bank users. Meanwhile, South and Central Alberta food banks continue to operate with less food flowing through their mutual distribution network because of fewer donations from grocery stores and companies.

It’s going to be a long, slow climb back to self-sufficiency for food bank users.

Meanwhile, South and Central Alberta food banks continue to operate with less food flowing through their mutual distribution network because of fewer donations from grocery stores and companies.

Dan Gonzales, director of The Lord’s Food Bank in Rocky Mountain House, said more food made it to Rocky this month, but he still has to buy five times as much food than he did before the recession, to fill hampers.

“A lot of what’s coming through is cookies and crackers,” Gonzales said on Thursday.

Handing out about 400 hampers a month, demand remains about 25 per cent higher than before the economy took a dive. And employment prospects for many people are still dim, Gonzales said.

“If the recession was over, if things went back to the way they were two years ago, it would still take us eight to 16 months for all of that to filter down to our level,” said Fred Scaife, Red Deer Food Bank executive director.

It takes time for people to catch up on costs that are not dealt with during economic distress, he said.

In March, the Red Deer bank gave out 734 hampers, up 31 per cent from March 2009.

Scaife said he is also buying more food to meet the demand and is relying more on the food that comes from Calgary through the distribution network, like cans with dints or products nearing best-before dates.

Before, Red Deer used to redistribute a majority of the food to rural food banks.

“Now because of the demands being placed upon us, we’re retaining a far greater amount then we have ever done before, even though we are still shipping out over 45 per cent that we are obligated to ship out.”

Scaife said stores have also completed the switch to summer stock, which would contribute to less food being distributed.

But rural food banks can still make requests for specific types of food and Red Deer and Calgary food banks will do everything they can to get it, he said.

“Our commitment to the rural areas is unshakable.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com