More households than ever before had to rely on the Red Deer Food Bank to put food on the table in January, and food hampers will continue to contain less food because of the demand.
“January was the busiest month on record for us, and we remained very busy right through February and March to the point where we’ve had to adjust our hours to keep up with the demand,” said executive director Mitch Thomson about the need to extend hours some days to assist all the clients who came out to the food bank.
The food bank fed 992 households in January, up from 885 during the same month in 2022, and 569 in January 2021.
Last month, 922 households received food hampers, jumping from 719 in February 2022, and 500 in 2021.
He said the food bank is also feeding more children. Last year, children made up about 47 per cent of food bank clients after averaging about 40 per cent in recent years.
Thomson said last year the amount of food in hampers was reduced by about 40 per cent to deal with the demand. Currently the food bank has less stock compared to last March, and food rationing will continue to be necessary.
“We’re being cautious. We expect this year will continue to be very much like last year.”
But hopefully the food supply will be replenished soon with the upcoming spring food drive, he added.
This year the annual food drive, organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will collect food from households on both the north and south sides of the city on April 29 to help restock shelves.
“That is our largest food raiser in the year and we’re hopeful the community gets behind it.”
Thomson said to help feed clients the food bank is also looking to grow its own fresh produce to eventually feed 300 families a week.
“We have been approved for a hydroponic sea can and a four-season greenhouse. We do hope to have that in place prior to next fall.”
He said the permit process is still underway. Ideally the projects would be located at the food bank, but community partners may be consulted if other locations are necessary.
Red Deer Food Bank food trucks will be back raising revenue for the charity starting next month, and culinary classes will be available to teach people about food preservation, healthy meal preparation, and making the most of their grocery budgets.