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Food Bank hard pressed by surge in demand

Red Deer Food Bank served a whopping 64 per cent more people in March than the same month in 2008.
Sign of the Times 130409jer
As a result of an increase of 64 per cent in the number clients that utilized the Red Deer Food Bank last month over March

Red Deer Food Bank served a whopping 64 per cent more people in March than the same month in 2008.

The number of adults receiving food assistance in March compared with the same month last year increased to 782 from 458, and children increased to 514, from 331.

The food bank gave out 561 food hampers last month, compared with 368 last year.

“When I looked at our figures for March, I was stunned,” executive director Fred Scaife said on Tuesday.

“It’s nuts and I’m really, really concerned that this is not slowing down this month at all. Typically in March, April, we should be seeing a bit of a downturn in usage and it’s just not happening.”

Typically, demand at the food bank increases in January and February when people deal with more or higher bills, he said.

To deal with the surge, construction on a second counter started on Monday at the food bank for handing out food hampers.

“Our biggest problem is just the sheer volume, so what we’re doing is restructuring our client service area.”

“We used to have one line only for passing the boxes of food out to people. We’ve created two lines now.”

Scaife said people don’t want to be here in the first place, and to make them wait longer than half an hour in a line is difficult.

At one point in March, people were lined up outside the food bank doors, something staff have never seen before.

An income guideline has been in place for a year that limits single hamper recipients to an annual salary of $19,000 or $368 a week. The cutoff for a family of two is $24,000. A family of five can earn up to $40,500.

When people come in who earn more money, they are given one hamper because something has forced them to come. But they must seek other alternatives in the future, he said.

The food bank may also look at limiting how many food hampers a single person can get.

“There are a number of organizations in the city and places that anyone can go and get a free meal. I would rather see a single person go to a soup kitchen to get fed than have an entire family go to a soup kitchen and get fed.”

Food supplies in the warehouse are expected to shrink quickly at a time when regular donors are giving less, Scaife said.