Families who have never before used the Red Deer Food Bank are walking through its doors now, in the second year of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said an official.
“Just yesterday we had a family of five come in,” recalled Donna Gratton, the food bank’s client services manager on Tuesday. The father had lost his job in the oilfield, which was needed to support his wife and three kids.
Gratton said the man told her he was used to donating to the food bank, not being a recipient. “It was a very humbling experience for him,” she added.
While the family was receiving some government relief, “the money doesn’t go as far as the bills” — which is the case for many people since the pandemic forced many companies to close or downsize.
Food bank usage reflects this reality — client numbers are up from the first quarter of 2020.
Gratton said 1,647 hampers were given out from January to March, compared to 1,492 in the first three months of 2020.
The food bank also served 50 more children in the first part of this year, compared to January to March of 2020. Gratton said the food bank’s younger clients totalled 1,550 for the first three months of 2021.
“These are unprecedented times,” added the food bank official who knows through food bank records that many new families are using its services.
While the increase in clients has not been as “dramatic” as it might be because government programs have kept a lot of Canadians afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gratton has noticed a steady rise in demand that’s not yet dropped off.
She’s thankful community groups and businesses are finding new ways to collect for the food bank that do not require going from door-to-door for donations.
While the traditional Mormon spring food drive cannot take place, the Red Deer College Athletics department and Holy Family School recently dropped off more than 2,500 pounds of food donations, and several local businesses have been doing up their own food drives.
“We are very grateful that people are coming up with new ways to make it happen,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Red Deer Food Bank is seeking more volunteers to help it keep up with demand.