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Demand for services at Mustard Seed grows with rising costs

School lunch program feeding 600 students in Red Deer and area
FILE - Mustard Seed runs a 46-bed sober shelter, soup kitchen and health centre in Riverside Meadows. (Photo by Advocate staff)

The rising cost of living has more people accessing meals and other services from The Mustard Seed.

“As we see prices increase in all areas, it’s just pushing those on the edge over the edge, and now they find themselves needing our services,” said Laura Giesbrecht, senior director of food services.

She said affordability reached a crisis point after Easter, and the Red Deer organization is now providing 160 to 170 evening meals, and prepares about 600 school lunches for students in the city and surrounding area.

“Come the end of June the kids are no longer in school. That’s when those needs become every greater for students because they don’t have the support of teachers and schools and friends to bridge that gap. So summer is a really tenuous time for kids in school who don’t have enough food.”


The Mustard Seed honours donors, volunteers at Seeds for Hope Celebration

Giesbrecht said monetary donations to the Mustard Seed, instead of food donations, are the best way to help feed those in need. The organization can stretch those dollars further because of its relationships with wholesale food companies.

“The continued support of our communities means that we do not have to turn anyone away that needs a meal or additional food resources. Providing food helps mitigate a lot of stress for individuals and families as they struggle with food insecurity.”


Mustard Seed and Salvation Army in Red Deer keep students fed

She said more families are relying on the Mustard Seed for evening meals and food hampers, and demand for its health and wellness services has increased by 30 per cent.

Those essential services include advocacy, counselling, and visits with a doctor and a physiotherapist.

“Specialty health care supports such as allied health services have always been difficult for those living in poverty to access due to lack of insurance or income. The affordability crisis has only heightened the demand for these essential services,” Giesbrecht said.

“Access services such as occupational therapy and counselling are often viewed as luxury services rather than the essential service that they are. Our donor partners make access to these services possible for the growing number of individuals who are unable to pay out of pocket for these critical supports.”

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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