Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff Red Deer Food Bank Society employees, Dave Kolisnyk in the forklift and Gary Nichols, unload a truckload of food on Tuesday.

Huge increase in demand for hampers at Red Deer Food Bank

Fred Scaife opposes the Alberta carbon tax, saying it will cause more hardship for hard-hit families

A massive surge in parents and children using the Red Deer Food Bank is leading director Fred Scaife to add his voice to the growing chorus opposing the Alberta carbon tax.

He predicted out-of-work families in our economically hammered region will be further hurt by paying an extra tax on gasoline and natural gas, without this causing a significant reduction in global air emissions.

Red Deer’s unemployment rate of 10 per cent was called the worst in Alberta when Alberta Labour stats were released in August. This city is tied to many oilfield-related businesses affected by the low global price of oil, so Scaife said “the hit is profound in Red Deer.”

This is borne out by a huge spike in demand at the local food bank. Scaife said the charity has been giving out 50 to 100 per cent more food hampers than last year, depending on fluctuating monthly demand.

For instance, a staggering 707 food hampers were given out in October, compared to 449 for the same month last year. This is a 51 per cent increase, said Scaife, who feels fortunate that community donations have so far been keeping up with client demand.

During other months this year, the charity made up 60, 80, 100 per cent more than hampers compared to the same periods in 2015. “Never in my 18, 19 years here have I seen anything like this,” he added.

Among the food bank’s new clients are parents who never thought they’d need the non-profit’s services. “The really tragic part of this is that we are seeing a lot more kids,” said Scaife. In September — an expensive month at the start of school — the number of children served by the non-profit group was 1,029, compared to 342 in September of 2015.

The Wildrose Opposition party is fighting against the carbon tax, which the NDP government wants to implement starting in January. It’s expected to reduce greenhouse gases and collect $9.6 billion over the next five years, to be “reinvested in Alberta’s economy.”

Although an exemption was sought for charities, it was voted down by the government.

Scaife said the Red Deer Food Bank has several fundraising events planned, including the Tom Jackson Christmas concert and dinner Nov. 30 at the Westerner (tickets through Ticketmaster), and the Stuff-a-Bus event Dec. 2-4 at Parkland Mall.

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