Thanksgiving is coming up, but less than a third of the needy families relying on the Red Deer Food Bank will find a turkey or chicken in their monthly hamper.
Executive-director Mitch Thomson said the local food bank is having its busiest year on record and struggling to keep up with even basic demands.
“As we finished September, we have served as many people as the entire of 2021,” he added.
Although the annual holiday of thanksgiving is coming up this weekend, “it’s a sign of the times,” said Thomson on Wednesday that only 250 of the 800 hampers going out will have anything “extra” in them, like a chicken, ham or turkey.
“There are so many people who won’t be receiving any extras to ensure that they can celebrate as well,” he added.
The food bank did recently receive a donation of 40 turkeys from the Central Alberta Real Estate Association, as well as other turkey and chicken donations from a Central Alberta Co-op campaign.
But Thomson said these will supplement less than a third of the emergency hampers that are going out this month to help feed needy families in the community.
Eight-hundred hampers a month has been the norm since last Christmas, he added. But the food bank actually helps about 3,400 people each month, with extras such as bread and vegetable pick-ups.
With rising inflation and gas prices, Thomson knows many families in the community who have donated to the food bank in previous years are struggling to cover even their own expenses.
The Red Deer food bank has been struggling to maintain food supplies over the summer while at the same time seeing a continual increase of clients as people struggle to regain their financial footing after more than two long pandemic years.
“This is the busiest year on record for the Red Deer Food Bank,” said Thomson, who’s happy to entering the food-drive season leading up to Christmas.
For those who can afford to donate, there will be plenty of upcoming opportunities.
AG Foods on Gaetz Avenue on the South Hill is having a Fresh Food market this weekend and will be collecting for the food bank.
From Oct. 13-31 the Lockdown Red Deer Escape Room will be hosting haunted houses and collecting donations for the food bank.
On Oct. 14 the Red Deer Food Bank is co-hosting the Feed 500 event with the City of Red Deer and Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Food demos and other special events will be held near the Golden Circle, in Rotary Recreation Park.
Also on Oct. 14, the Investors Group Comedy Tour at the Memorial Centre will be collecting for the food bank.
On Oct. 15, the Real Canadian Superstore will be collecting food donations at a 30th Anniversary event at its downtown location.
On Oct. 22 the Food Bank will be having a Drive-Thru Food Drive, and offer tours of its facility, including new commercial kitchen, in north Red Deer.
And on Oct. 28, the Central Music Festival will be collecting donations of non-perishables at a concert a the Elk’s Club.
“We will do our best to stretch what we have over the next few weeks, and then hopefully we will be able to recoup some goods and keep going,” said Thomson.
Potter’s Hands soup kitchen is experiencing about a 15 per cent rise in demand from last year. And the seasonal need always rises more steeply in November and December, so the numbers could soon double, said volunteer Stan Schalk. He noted the soup kitchen is now serving up about 1,000 free meals a week.
Potter’s Hands will hold its free community Thanksgiving meal from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the soup kitchen, 4935-51st St.
The Mustard Seed will hold its Thanksgiving community meal at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 10, at its Red Deer location, 6002-54th Ave.