More Red Deerians need help to put food on their tables, according to local agencies.
Mitch Thomson, executive director of Red Deer Food Bank, said 885 people received emergency food hampers in January compared to 569 the same month last year. In February, requests climbed to 719 from 500 in 2021.
“Over the last four months, every month we’ve seen a dramatically higher number of people coming in for hampers and items to help meet their daily needs,” Thomson said.
“We don’t see an end in sight at this time.”
Two hundred to 400 people a day visit the food bank’s pantry to pick up a few extra supplies.
He said all kinds of people need assistance. Some clients are working and still cannot make ends meet, some struggle with health problems or family situations.
Maj. Kent Hepditch with the Salvation Army said demand for their weekend food program for children is at an all-time high. Since last October, the number of children receiving food has increased about 18 per cent.
“We’re currently helping 318 students with meals for the weekend,” said Hepditch about the program that distributes food to students at 27 schools.
“We provide them with meals to get them through the weekend, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.”
It’s the first time a program has gone over budget in recent years, he said.
Seniors are also asking for help.
“With the rising costs of food and gas, they’re having to choose between paying their power bill or rent or food. It’s been a struggle.”
Thomson said the province’s decision to temporarily stop collecting its 13-cents-per-litre gas tax starting April 1 will help residents, but food and fuel prices are definitely impacting people greatly, including the food bank.
“All of the grocery stores are getting hit with higher transportation costs. Much of these garden-fresh items are coming from a great distance, and we just simply don’t have it to give right now.”
Community donations are also down, he said.
“You can walk through our warehouse and see that there’s a huge amount of things that just aren’t in stock that we haven’t been able to get, and honestly, just can’t afford to buy.”
Thomson said to help out people could consider planting a few vegetable seeds indoors in preparation for their garden to support themselves and others.
“Some of the community garden projects, like Common Ground, are great programs where people can volunteer to help support local food production that does impact organizations like ourselves, Mustard Seed, and others. Those are important.”