Red Deer Food Bank hampers fed a whopping 1,635 men, women and children in February compared to 513 people the same month last year — a 220 per cent increase in demand.
“I don’t think it gets any more glaring than that. I don’t think there’s a whole lot that needs to be said,” said Food Bank executive director Fred Scaife on Thursday.
“In my nightmares I could not even imagine numbers like the ones I’m looking at today.”
In February, the food bank gave out 695 hampers to serve 1,014 adults and 621 children. In January, 664 hampers fed 938 adults and 532 children.
Scaife said the situation is just getting worse. As of August last year, the food bank saw a 15 per cent increase over 2014, and by the end of December it was almost a 40 per cent increase.
“We’re seeing an increase in families so that means that everybody’s getting hit by this. The economy or whatever is going on out there is not playing any favourites.”
Last month, 324 families were fed, up from 93 families last February.
Many new clients are unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of charity and the look on some of their faces is “sheer terror,” he said.
“We’re talking about people that were potentially donors not even 12 months ago. When you look in the eyes of some of these people, they are in trouble and they know it.”
He said the majority of food bank users are unemployed. The only things on their side right now are the mild winter weather that has kept utility costs low and they aren’t facing extra costs that go along with the start of a new school year.
As more people pour into the food bank, he said staff must limit the number of hamper clients they can assist on a daily basis. In the future the amount of food going into hampers may have to be reduced, which has happened at times in the past when needed, he said.
Scaife was confident that Red Deerians will step up with donations to meet the needs of food bank clients.
“The city, in 18 years, has never turned me down when I say we need some food. They have never said no to us and they have never disappointed us. They’ve done it time and time again.”
But more volunteers willing to work at the food bank would be helpful to keep up with demand, Scaife said.
“We’re very efficient and well versed in what we do so it’s just the amount, the sheer volume, we’re trying to deal with. It’s bad.”
Red Deer Food Bank is holding its first fundraising barbecue of the season on March 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 4 Wheel Parts in Gasoline Alley, at 342 Laura Ave.