Janet Lindhout fills a hamper at the Red Deer and District Food Bank on Tuesday.

Janet Lindhout fills a hamper at the Red Deer and District Food Bank on Tuesday.

The cupboards are bare

“You know darn well that they are only one or two paycheques away from the problem.”

“You know darn well that they are only one or two paycheques away from the problem.”

That’s Peggy Macofka, executive director for Rimbey Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), talking about some of the folks who use the food bank in that community.

She and Rimbey Food Bank co-ordinator Katherine Winters agree — they are seeing new families that might have been considered better off now calling on the food bank for help.

Time are tougher this year than they have been in a long time, and many of the 11 food banks in Central Alberta are seeing strong increases in the number of people they help feed.

It’s no mystery why — Alberta’s economy is suffering from the continuing drop in oil prices. Layoffs and work shortages are becoming commonplace, and with Christmas just about a month away, food banks are expecting to be busier than normal.

In October they saw six new families that they had never met before. The total was 20 families, comprised of 31 adults and 24 children. Normally they see about 12 families in a month.

The new people in October were young families for the most part that had been previously employed but had been laid off or run into a shortage of work.

“So far we’ve been able to manage, donations are strong,” said Macofka, but she admits they are a little worried about Christmas. Last year they gave out about 45 Christmas hampers but this year they are expecting 55 to 65.

In Rocky Mountain House, Dan Gonzales, director of the Lord’s Food Bank, said they have seen at least a 20-per-cent increase in clients over the past three months.

In fact they set a record in September when they handed out 463 hampers, only to set another record in October of 501 hampers.

“It became very, very busy — meaning the demand for food is up substantially,” Gonzales said.

“It’s just been going up on a steady basis in the last four or five months.”

He is a little concerned about being able to meet the need.

“It’s nip and tuck right now. I’m hoping it doesn’t get much worse than around 500, because at that level the amount of food going through is very substantial.”

In a normal month, when the economy is better, they give out about 350 hampers. The food bank covers a large area, which includes about 36,000 people. They service all the way out to the Big Horn Reserve, halfway to Drayton Valley, halfway to Caroline and halfway to Red Deer. It is one of the top 10 food banks in Alberta in terms of the amount of food given out.

“We’re hearing a lot of … people not getting as many hours and so that’s of course hurting different people,” Gonzales said. Most of their clients are families.

“We give out $700,000 worth of food in a year.”

Their Christmas campaign, called the Turkey Drive, is now on with a $55,000 goal. Some of the money will be used through the year to purchase extra food, but they do give out about $30,000 worth of food in Christmas hampers alone, he said.

On just the first day of registration, they had 46 applications for Christmas hampers already. The registration goes on for a month.

“Sometimes people, because of the economy, they are even more generous because they recognize the need,” Gonzales said.

One business that had never donated before just gave them 600 cans of food. “People understand we are hurting a little more than usual, so that’s pretty neat.”

Executive director of the Red Deer Food Bank, Fred Schaife said demand, like everywhere else, has “skyrocketed.”

From October 2014 to October 2015, they saw the single biggest increase in one particular service they have ever seen.

The walk-in service where people can select bread, potatoes, fruits and vegetables went up by 112 per cent over the previous October. In 2014 there were 670 accesses in the client service area compared with 1,419 accesses this year.

These are the people who are almost making ends meet and the majority of them will never actually apply for a hamper, Schaife said.

Overall, the hamper line increased from October 2014 to October 2015 was 35 per cent.

Red Deer Food Bank handed out 390 hampers in October 2014 compared with 473 last month. In 2014 this helped 533 adults and 251 children, but this year hampers helped considerably more — 637 adults and 440 children.

The chances of getting repeats in those numbers are slim because they pack enough food in each hamper to last a good number of days, Schaife said.

Recent successful food drives means they don’t expect to run out of food anytime soon, he said, but the increased numbers do put a strain on them because they are spending more buying meat, milk and margarine. This amounts to $2,500 to $3,000 each month.

“It really seemed to bust loose about six to eight weeks ago. Not unusual now to see in our client service area 15 and 20 people at a time. Two years ago it may have been six or eight people.”

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Shanna Lydiard is upset to have had mail delivery cut off last month to her West Park street because of water main reconstruction. Delivery is to resume by May 19 at the latest, according to the City of Red Deer. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Red Deer woman frustrated by mail delivery suspension due to construction

Shanna Lydiard said residents shouldn’t have to drive across the city for their mail

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen received his COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday at Jackson’s Pharmacy in Innisfail. (Devin Creeshen Twitter photo)
COVID-19: Most local MLAs have received their first vaccine shot

Alberta’s NDP is encouraging all MLAs to get vaccinated and publicly promote… Continue reading

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

Bo's Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening.
(Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

The Bowden Institution medium security facility near Bowden has 15 active COVID-19 cases. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
15 active COVID-19 cases at Bowden prison

Bowden Institution has had 36 positive cases this year with 21 recovered and no deaths

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Ottawa Senators centre Josh Norris, right, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with left wing Brady Tkachuk Wednesday May 12, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, holds up the trophy after beating Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, in the final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, in Montreal on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Philadelphia Flyers' Travis Sanheim (6) and Brian Elliott (37) celebrate with teammates after the Flyers won an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

FILE - John Davidson, left, president of the New York Rangers, and Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton pose at a news conference in New York, in this Wednesday, May 22, 2019, file photo. The New York Rangers abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 with three games left in the season. Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, returns a shot from Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Denis Shapovalov books meeting with Nadal in third round of Italian Open

Canadian Denis Shapovalov books meeting with Nadal in third round of Italian Open

United States goalie Alex Cavallini (33) deflects Canada's Marie Philip Poulin (29) shot during the first period in the women's 3-on-3 game, part of the NHL hockey All-Star weekend, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in St. Louis. Hockey Canada's roster of players invited to try out for the 2022 Olympic women's hockey team indicates the squad will be experienced up front and less so on the back end. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Roberson
Hockey Canada announces players invited to try out for women’s Olympic team

Hockey Canada announces players invited to try out for women’s Olympic team

Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried works against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Hernández 2 HRs as Ryu, Blue Jays improve to 5-0 vs Braves

Hernández 2 HRs as Ryu, Blue Jays improve to 5-0 vs Braves

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Leafs, Habs will face off in long-awaited playoff rematch, Oilers will face Jets

Leafs, Habs will face off in long-awaited playoff rematch, Oilers will face Jets

Most Read