Record food bank use of concern

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank co-manager Wes Clarke is seen next to non-perishables this week. The food bank has faced record use so far this year. 

After two months of record-setting use, Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank management is worried about the organization’s future.

 

What worries co-manager Wes Clarke the most is that food bank use tends to drop off at this time of year and then double in the summer.

“If we double what we’re doing now, I’m not sure what’s going to happen -- I truly don’t,” he said.

“We’re letting people know now because we definitely don’t want to be closing our doors, and that is something that could truly happen.

“The Alliance Church gave us some extra tables so we could seat more people. Even with the numbers that we have now we’re overflowing, so we’re quite concerned about capacity.”

The organization is divided into two functions -- the soup kitchen and the food hamper.

In February, 634 food hampers were handed out -- a new record that dwarfs their monthly average of about 450. March saw 629 food hampers handed out.

March also saw a record-setting 2,271 meals served at the soup kitchen, which provides soup and sandwiches from Monday to Thursday and hot meals on Fridays.

This figure is roughly double what they had anticipated for this time of year.

To the Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank’s benefit was a positive start to the year, with their October food drive and Christmas season donations from the public setting them up nicely for 2014.

On top of that, the Calgary Food Bank donated almost 32,000 pounds of food in January.

This excellent start to the year set them up nicely to not “hit that situation like we did last summer (where) we came very close to running out of food,” Clarke said -- an assessment the last two months have left them second-guessing.   

Although he’s able to cite statistics around Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank use, Clarke is unable to answer the “million dollar question” of why it’s up so significantly.

“It is a very complex issue,” he said. “We know there are certain factors that are bringing people to us -- rent being the biggest trouble maker of that, without a doubt.”

We’re letting people know now because we definitely don’t want to be closing our doors, and that is something that could truly happen. Wes Clarke

About 70 per cent of the people who received food hampers during the fiscal year that ended on March 31 live in rental properties.

About 22 per cent are living with friends and family -- a segment Clarke refers to as “the hidden homeless” -- and about 8.3 per cent live in social housing.

This is further evidence of the importance of social housing, Prince Albert Community Housing manager Linda Boyer said, noting that market rent prices push food affordability out of reach for many low income people.

“When I look at the applications (and at) what some people make, I don’t know how some people make ends meet when it comes to the rent they pay,” she said.

If not for the Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank “there would be a lot of people that would be starving,” she added.

Faced with an unexpected potential food shortfall, the Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank is asking for donations of pretty well any type of food.

“Any and all assistance is greatly appreciated,” Clarke said, noting that on-site freezers allow for perishables as well as the usual non-perishable staples, such as canned goods and pasta.

If things progress into the summer as management fears it will, the Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank will be asking themselves the same question as those who use their services, Clarke said.

“Are we going to buy food or are we going to pay our bills? We’re definitely doing everything that we can.”

For more information on helping the Prince Albert Share-A-Meal Food Bank, visit their website, online at www.pafoodbank.ca, phone the organization at 763-5040, or stop by their downtown location, at 64 11th Street East. 

Organizations: Meal Food Bank, Alliance Church, Calgary Food Bank

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  • Concerned Grandmother
    April 12, 2014 - 19:04

    I think Prince Albert is getting a lot of people who have moved here from somewhere else. It will get much more difficult for the city to support all these extra people.

  • trevor laplantee
    April 11, 2014 - 22:32

    its because rent is to high people are starving in prince albert parents have to two jobs each to afford grocseries and rent and bills its to much peoplecant do it they let albrta buy rental places they raise the rent some booming econmy in sask where is it