Mitch Thomson, executive-director of the Red Deer Food Bank said they get 3,375 visits each month from people who pick up bread or produce to supplement what they can afford to buy at grocery stores. (Advocate file photo)

Mitch Thomson, executive-director of the Red Deer Food Bank said they get 3,375 visits each month from people who pick up bread or produce to supplement what they can afford to buy at grocery stores. (Advocate file photo)

Demand on Red Deer charities is expected to grow this fall, due to inflation and post-pandemic strain

Tools for Schools, Red Deer Food Bank area already seeing more clients

Higher price tags on backpacks, school supplies and back-to-school clothing will push more Central Alberta families to seek help from charitable organizations, predicted Ian Wheeliker, director of Red Deer’s Outreach Centre.

Fall is already the most expensive time of year next to Christmas for families with kids, added Wheeliker. And escalating inflation is now “hitting folks who were previously only just able to make ends meet.”

The situation is causing burgeoning demand for his organization’s Tools for Schools program.

Wheeliker expects to give out about 1,000 backpacks with school supplies this month and into September, compared to the 900 given out to local families last year.

“As of yesterday we’ve already given out 495,” he added, noting his non-profit is already short of larger backpacks for Grades 9 to 12 students.

“We are seeing families with four to six kids on average…With the rising cost of food, housing, supplies, imagine the strain going back to school places on parents,” added Wheeliker.

He believes many central Albertans have used up whatever money they had put aside while they were working less, or unemployed, due to COVID-19 restrictions. “They haven’t had time to get back to a financially secure position and we are seeing the ripple effects.”

With higher costs, and many families still recovering from the financial hit they took during the pandemic, Wheeliker anticipates food banks and Adopt-a-Family programs will also be busier in the months leading up to Christmas.

This month, the Red Deer Food Bank reports having 10 times less food left on its shelves than the same time last year because of a 60 per cent month-over-month increase in clients.

There’s even a need for staple items, such as pasta and canned vegetables, said executive-director Mitch Thomson on Tuesday.

“We are seeing more and more families in need,” he added, and about 40 per cent of those helped are children.

A University of Toronto study released this week found Albertans leading the country in “food insecurity.” According to the Household Food Insecurity in Canada report, more than 20 per cent of people in this province are struggling to put food on the table. That’s the largest percentage out of all of the provinces.

Alberta has the highest number of working people who are using food banks, indicating many families “can’t quite make ends meet,” despite earning paychecks, said Thomson. “Housing, fuel and food costs more than their wages can cover…”

Besides the hampers that go out monthly, the Red Deer Food Bank also gets 3,375 visits each month from people who pick up bread or produce to supplement what they can afford to buy at grocery stores.

“We are getting more walk-in families,” said Thomson. “The amount of need that has been demonstrated this year has really made (the plight of some people) clear to us.”

To donate food items or make a cash donation, please call the food bank.

Tools for Schools is in need of more large backpacks for older kids, as well as loose leaf paper and one-inch binders. Donations can be made by calling Red Deer’s Outreach Centre.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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The Red Deer Food Bank is reporting having 10 times less food left on its shelves than the same time last year because of a 60 per cent month-over-month increase in clients. (Advocate file photo)

The Red Deer Food Bank is reporting having 10 times less food left on its shelves than the same time last year because of a 60 per cent month-over-month increase in clients. (Advocate file photo)

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