The Goldstream Food Bank is appealing to the public for donations, as they face their season of greatest strain following a rapid uptick of those in need.
Since April, clients to the Goldstream Food Bank have gone up 10 per cent each month, with 27 additional families signed up in August, said Gayle Ireland, a volunteer with the food bank for 35 of the 38 years it’s operated in the western communities. On one day during the week of Sept. 6, volunteers handed out food hampers to 65 families in just three hours, she said.
“Anything that we can get this time of year to fill our shelves … we’re really, really grateful,” Ireland said, looking at shelves left almost completely bare following the Sept. 14 distribution.
While the food bank is not in danger of running out of its essentials that provide nutritious hampers for clients, it is in need of those extra items that round out pantries – snacks for kids after school, for example.
Items above and beyond the staples are especially needed during this time of year as the food bank’s stocks typically run lowest during the months of August, September and October, Ireland said. “People are on holidays and donations drop off,” she said. “But people are hungry 12 months a year.”
Pandemic restrictions have also made their distribution process slightly more difficult. “Since 1983 we’ve done it one way, and the pandemic made us have to sit down and check health protocols (aligned with) the B.C. Center of Disease Control,” Ireland said. Volunteer Darrell Colwell was involved with removing each of the bank’s shelves and measuring the room’s square footage to determine that 13 would work there while maintaining a safe social distance.
The reduction of their staff from at least 20 has “just been horrendous,” Ireland said. “But we’ve done a fine job.”
Following her decades of experience with the food bank, Ireland said the recent significant uptick of senior and young family clients correlates with rising costs of living throughout Greater Victoria. Rentals.ca reports a one-bedroom apartment in the region averaged $1,756 this July, rising 8.7 per cent over June and 11.6 per cent over July 2020, making Greater Victoria the fourth most expensive region to rent in Canada.
“As we’re saying, everything’s going up like 10 per cent,” Colwell said. “Some come in for groceries that they could afford one year ago.”
Ireland also said the uptick correlated with the repeal of COVID benefits such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
Colwell said one client with a wife and very young son made their first visit to the food bank on Sept. 14, after losing their job and an opportunity to return to school both because of the COVID pandemic.
“The amount of food that we give is always overwhelming to people, because of the fact that we do give so much,” Colwell said, recalling their meeting. Donations to the food bank are “easing some of that stress off the person, so they can think about something else and not have to worry about the food part,” he said.
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