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Rise in food bank demand fueled by inflation, high gas prices in Greater Victoria

Local food banks had 3 to 4 times the new patrons in March than the typical month
Food bank demand is up in Greater Victoria, spurred largely by inflation and high gas prices. Pictured is the Goldstream Food Bank warehouse in November 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)

Food banks in Greater Victoria are seeing increased demand amid rising inflation and gas prices.

The surge in demand is not limited to one particular group of people, with new patrons coming forward for services from all walks of life, said Bev Elder, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank.

The number of seniors coming to the food bank is up in Sidney, as well as the number of single people coming forward, she said.

“Sidney – it’s a beautiful place to live, but it’s very expensive with housing out here, as it is everywhere right now.”

The food bank had 21 new households sign up in March and 16 in February, versus around five in an average month.

Goldstream Food Bank had around 60 new households sign up to receive hampers in March versus 18 the same time last year, according to president Gayle Ireland.

Most of the new hamper recipients are people on disability insurance, or those who are “working challenged,” she said – people who are working but can’t make ends meet. In total 359 hampers went out, serving more than a thousand people in March, which is close to pre-pandemic levels, Ireland said.

The Langford-based food bank is well set up to meet the increased demand, but has gone through most of the extra supplies they received around Christmas, such as hygiene supplies, pet food and toys for kids.

Throughout the pandemic, Elder said, supply chain issues have seen her organization struggle to order items in bulk as they normally would. For example, the food bank might normally order 30 pallets of Kraft Dinner at one time, but at some points were only able to order one or two. Those challenges are easing, but are being replaced with other ones.

“Finally the food chain is starting to open up again, so we’re able to get product, but donations coming through the door are very slim right now,” she said.

The community support is always strong in Sidney, Elder said, but with inflation, it means people’s donations don’t go as far.

Added Ireland, “You just blink your eye and the prices are up. So it’s really hard. It’s really hard for people, we understand that and we’re here for them if they need our service.”

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