People are still recovering from higher utility expenses during the long winter, based on the demand for groceries at the Red Deer Food Bank.
In June, about 2,000 people used the local food bank, up from about 1,700 in the spring when utility costs were making it impossible for more people than usual on shoe-string budgets.
Last month, 369 food hampers helped 900 people, including 492 adults and 418 children. Another 1,100 walk-in clients were also served.
“I think it’s just a carryover from that long winter. It’s taking people a little longer to catch up,” said Alice Kolisnyk, food bank deputy director, on Monday.
She said snow in May also caused a delay in paycheques for seasonal workers and there is always an influx of seasonal workers who need a hand during summer.
Once school closes for summer, families face additional child care costs for young children and soon they will face the burden of back to school expenses, she said.
“A lot of money gets spent on school supplies and clothes.”
Kolisnyk said the annual demand at the food bank remains fairly steady and she can’t recall a drastic drop in demand for any reason in recent years.
“It’s still very constant.”
She said food donations tend to drop off in the summer, but local growers ensure there’s plenty of fresh produce for those in need. Backyard gardeners help out when they have bumper crops, including crab apples, which should start arriving at the food bank in August.
Central Alberta Women’s Outreach is once again operating its Tools For School program to provide students in need with a backpack of basic school supplies.
Darcy Ouellet, Women’s Outreach fund development officer, said backpacks contain about $90 worth of school supplies, including the backpack.
“It’s a good majority of what they need,” Ouellet said.
Last year, 1,285 backpacks were given out in the first-come, first-serve program.
On Wednesday, donation bins for Tools for Schools will be set up at Walmarts in Red Deer and Sylvan Lake, Staples, Costco Wholesale, United Way of Central Alberta, Peavey Mart, and a couple of bins will move around to community events.
Ouellet said every year parents ask if running shoes are included in the backpack and this year the answer is ‘Yes.’
Women’s Outreach is partnering with CrossRoads Church to provide a new pair of running shoes for kindergarten to Grade 8 through the program Love in the Laces.
Shoes can be dropped off at the church, located at 38105 Range Road 275, every Sunday in August from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Children’s sizes 10 to 13 and adult sizes one to eight will be accepted.