Sheila Wetherelt, volunteer co-ordinator at the Red Deer Food Bank Soceity, puts a hamper together Wednesday afternoon. The organization handed out 9,673 hampers in 2018, feeding more than 14,000 adults and more than 10,000 children in Central Alberta. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

Red Deer food bank to re-evaluate to stay up to date on new Canadian food guide

The Red Deer Food Bank Society, which feeds thousands of families every year, will check to see how its offerings compare to the new Canadian food guide.

Executive director Fred Scaife said the foodbank evaluates what it’s putting on people’s plates once every couple of years to stay up to date.

“We’re not quite two years since the last time (we evaluated), but obviously we will revisit the subject,” he said Wednesday. “Because we feed tens of thousands of people, so it’s up to us to understand what good, healthy eating is.”

In 2018, the local foodbank handed out 9,673 hampers feeding about 14,138 adults and 10,187 children in Central Alberta living below the poverty line.

In addition, 28,846 people accessed its client services area, which is open Monday to Friday.

The new food guide recommends Canadians eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and choose plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts and tofu more regularly.

Maj. Larry Bridger at The Salvation Army in Red Deer said he doesn’t expect to make too many changes to the food assistance programs that help adults and the weekend initiative that supports children.

“Because we don’t give out too many meat or dairy products, except for canned tuna or canned chicken,” Bridger said.

The organization does not provide dairy products due to a lack of refrigeration space – something Bridger noted is in line with the new food guide, which recommends fewer milk products.

He said The Salvation Army consulted with a nutritionist about the weekend children’s program, and it serves fruit juices, applesauce, oatmeal, fruit and pudding cups.

The adult program serves granola bars, canned tuna, soups and beans, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta and rice.

“We purchase what we feel are some of the staples,” said Bridger. “We don’t have the facility for fresh produce – fruit and so on.”

Scaife said the quality of food donations is far superior today, than say, 10 to 20 years ago.

“Twenty years ago, we got Kraft Dinner, we got tomato soup, we had no fruits and vegetables. The bread we got was usually three days old at least,” Scaife explained, based on his 20 years’ experience.

Families with children take priority when it comes to pure juices, healthier cereals and fruits and vegetables, over adults or couples.

“The hierarchy around here is children first.”

Scaife said that’s because children usually eat what parents put on the table, while adults can make the conscious choice of whether or not they want to eat a particular type of cereal.

This means sometimes, fruits and vegetables may not make it onto adults’ plates.

“If you’re single or a couple of adults, and supply is limited on that particular day, then you’re not going to leave with fruits and vegetables,” he said, adding it all boils down to supply.

He explained the fruits and vegetables the food bank does give out, may not be enough to accommodate the guidelines.

Scaife noted the food bank is an emergency and temporary source of supply.

“We cannot be your sole source of food – plain and simple. It’s just not possible in the numbers of people we deal with… it’s unsustainable,” he said.

“But the reality is we give what we can.”

The donor base today is aware of making healthier choices, such as real juice and non-sugary cereals, he said. That’s because the food bank has been clear about its guidelines, during food drives, for instance, for many years.

With files from The Canadian Press

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