Red Deer Food Bank facing cash crunch

Red Deer Food Bank is facing its toughest year ever after cash donations fell short by about $200,000 for 2015.

Red Deer Food Bank is facing its toughest year ever after cash donations fell short by about $200,000 for 2015.

Executive director Fred Scaife said the food bank should have $400,000 to $450,000 in the bank right now for operations. Instead, there’s about $250,000.

“The way we’re sitting right now, we’re going to be good until the end of April, mid-May,” Scaife said on Friday.

“It’s a bad situation we’re in. We need some money.”

Scaife said food donations are still flowing in from the community, but cash donations from businesses started dwindling last fall as oil prices continued dropping.

“I think there was a certain level of nervousness out there and companies were less inclined to give as much as they have in the past.”

When prices tanked, many people connected to or in the oil and gas sector who used to donate $500 to $2,000 closed their wallets, he said.

“They’ve got to think of their own families, right. It’s nice to be nice when you’ve got the money to do that. But in times of uncertainty, you have to start thinking a little bit closer to home and I think many of them did.”

The squeeze comes as more people need the food bank. Over 600 people came in for hampers last month, up about 200 from January 2014.

The number of clients who only need a few fresh items to top up their groceries has also jumped.

Scaife said about 12 people were picking up fresh food when he walked through the client service area on Friday morning.

At the same time of the day and month last year, there would only have been about four.

“Our parking lot is full all the time right now. With the price of oil not rebounding as quick as some had hoped, and rumour of it potentially going back down again, the trucks get bigger and newer in our parking lot.

“If the economic situation doesn’t look much better in March, I’m anticipating it will be an all-time record month.”

Even if the economy starts to improve, it will get worse before it gets better for clients, he said.

The food bank is now down to six paid staff. Two people were laid off at the beginning of the year to reduce operational costs.

“We may look at adjusting our hours of intake.”

However, if there were more people willing to volunteer at the food bank to sort food donations, that could be avoided, he said.

“As long as we’ve got food, we’re open. We might be doing it in the dark. We might be doing it in the cold. And some of us may be underemployed.”

Scaife said he will be knocking on the doors of companies and meeting with local CEOs, many who have helped in the past.

“They might not even realize we’re in the situation we’re in because they have their own realities to deal with. What I have to do is inject myself into their reality.”

All the food bank requires is a little extra effort from the community, he said.

“I’ve been down this road before, not nearly as rough a road by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that if our community is as supportive as they can be, I think that’s all that’s really needed.”

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