Downturn keeping food bank busy

January generally means a lull for the Red Deer Food Bank. Not this year.

January generally means a lull for the Red Deer Food Bank.

Not this year.

Food Bank executive director Fred Scaife said staff are being run off their feet, storage areas are overflowing and phones are ringing off the hook.

“We’ve had to set a limit on how many hampers we can actually do in a day because we don’t have the physical space and the manpower to deal with all of the requests coming in on a daily basis,” said Scaife.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” added Scaife, who has been helping feed local residents for almost 20 years and whose food bank is a regional distribution centre for a 22,000-square-km chunk of Central Alberta.

“The traffic goes on non-stop. The increases in client demand are incredible,” he said.

The last time he had to limit hampers was in 2008, when the world financial crisis peaked. That experience prompted the food bank to change its layout and systems to improve efficiency, moves that have paid off for many years.

This time around, the warehouse has already been re-arranged again to provide more space for hampers. But there is not much else that can be improved with the staff and space available.

“What concerns me is the busiest month of the year is yet to come, and that’s February.”

That is the month when the consequences of Christmas spending and crunch time for unpaid bills hits.

Scaife said the oilpatch downturn has a lot to do with the number who are struggling to put food on their tables. While oilpatch job cuts are an obvious sign of slumping oil prices, the financial impact creeps into every sector.

Lower-income households are the most vulnerable to economic downturns. They are typically walking an economic tightrope to begin with.

On top of that, they hold the kinds of jobs that make them the first staffers to go when budgets are tight and last to be rehired, he said.

“We knew it was coming from September on. When November hit, literally, all hell broke loose. We had lineups out the door.”

Scaife said it’s obvious by their lack of familiarity with the documentation required such as ID and proof of address, that many of those coming for help have never been to a food bank before.

More volunteers would be welcomed to help pack groceries, he said.

“If we had a few more bodies that would make the work in the hamper room a little better.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Stettler RCMP search for suspects

Attempted theft of an ATM

Sign cost a concern for some in Red Deer

Installation complete on south end welcome signs

Alberta’s biathlon women sweep the podium

Alberta biathletes take four medals, including silver in men’s race, on Sunday

Historic win for Team Nunavut at Canada Winter Games

Four years in the making boiled down to a collection of firsts… Continue reading

Canadian women beat US 2-0 to win inaugural Rivalry Series

DETROIT — The inaugural Rivalry Series was created to give Canada and… Continue reading

Don Cherry blasts Hurricanes as ‘jerks’; team responds with his words on T-shirt

TORONTO — Don Cherry’s latest rant about the Carolina Hurricanes and their… Continue reading

Country star Miranda Lambert reveals secret marriage

NASHVILLE — Country star Miranda Lambert celebrated Valentine’s Day weekend with the… Continue reading

‘Black Panther’ costume designer blazes trail to inspire

LOS ANGELES — Ruth E. Carter is a black woman blazing a… Continue reading

Chicago police: Jussie Smollett assault case has ‘shifted’

Chicago police said Saturday the investigation into the assault reported by Jussie… Continue reading

Still-active human rights case speaks to lasting homophobia in Canada: activists

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Just over 14 years ago, the government of… Continue reading

Alberta missionaries among the Canadians heading home from riot-stricken Haiti

MONTREAL — A Canadian couple who had to leave Haiti due to… Continue reading

Man charged in daughter’s death in hospital with self-inflicted gunshot wound: police

Police say a man charged with first-degree murder in the death of… Continue reading

Most Read