Kelowna Food Bank dealing with record levels of demand

Operations manager Rob Weller says the food bank is buying more food than ever before in preparation for high demand this Christmas.

Kelowna Food Bank operations manager Rob Weller wasn’t surprised when he read a recent report that suggested Canadian food banks are now assisting more people than ever.

According to HungerCount 2012, a report on hunger and food bank use in Canada, the need for food assistance programs in Canada grew this year.

In March 2012, 882,188 separate individuals received food—38 per cent of whom were children. That represents an increase of 2.4 per cent over 2011 and is 31 per cent higher than pre-recessionary levels.

According to Weller, the Kelowna Food Bank started noticing a significant difference last summer.

“Summer is usually a little slower here and this summer wasn’t,” said Weller.

“Usually by the end of August, our shelves are the emptiest, so we knew with numbers being up in July and August that the warehouse was going to be severely depleted.”

Community support poured in at the time; however, overall donations are still behind last year’s numbers and the food bank is eying down a Christmas season that could bring the highest demand the organization has ever seen.

Weller added the annual Canada Post food drive, which typically brings in 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of food, has been cancelled this year.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us to get through Christmas; we’re buying more food than we ever had before.”

The food bank operations manager said the public has continually come to the rescue through tough times in the past, but it’s a short-term solution.

“Long-term we need government to step forward. It’s kind of crazy that we live in a pretty wealthy country yet we have so many going without (food).”

The Kelowna Food Bank is the fourth largest food bank in B.C. It served 2,410 separate individuals in March of this year—an increase of five per cent from the year before. Forty per cent of those helped were children.

“The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow in the Central Okanagan due to a lack of meaningful and secure employment, the absence of a living wage, lack of affordable housing and the rising cost of living,” said Lenetta Parry, associate executive director at the Kelowna Food Bank.

“Some of our clients are working two or three jobs and still struggling to get by.”

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com