Financial donations to Red Deer and District Food Bank were on the decline as people braced for a third year with COVID.
Executive director Mitch Thomson said 85 per cent of monetary donations come in December, and dollars were down by about $100,000 from the previous year. But the agency is waiting for more financial donations from Christmas to arrive.
“Some of the financial donations were a little less so we think that’s a result of the economy and where people are at. But January is still a month that is often quite strong for us so we’re still hopeful there are still funds coming in,” said Thomson.
He said the food bank is blessed with corporate and service club donors. Donations from members of the public also really add up.
“There are so many people that go unnamed that really need thanks.”
He said demand for food was up 25 per cent in December, but there was great support when it came to food donations so the cupboards are in good shape.
“We are able to provide for those who are coming to the door right now. But we recognize there is a seasonality to food bank giving and that’s something we’ll have to work with throughout the year.”
He said extreme cold temperatures recently prevented some people from visiting the food bank, which is an issue the agency wants to address.
Thomson recalled an older, isolated couple who called just before Christmas after one of them fell, making it difficult to leave the house.
“They were on fumes. They didn’t have anything in the house. We were able to put some food in a vehicle and drive over to a home that may not have normally needed support.”
He said increasing food costs will also continue to impact central Albertans who may have to make some tough decisions. Dairy suppliers have warned the food bank that costs are going up 13 per cent this year.
Stress is another growing issue for clients as COVID-19 persists.
“When you’re worried about your physical health, or have anxieties about being out in the community during the pandemic, or about your employment, these things have a snowball effect,” Thomson said.
“We’ve recognized that (mental health) does play a big role in how healthy people are and what they’re able to do to support themselves.”
He said staff hear about the stress clients are under while collecting information to prepare their emergency food hampers.
“We’re often hearing stories about health, about not being able to work, about inconsistent work, about needing to be home to care for somebody else, about the stresses that come along with the pandemic and the poor economy.”