Shellbrook food bank closes

Tyler Clarke
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Last week saw calls to the Shellbrook Area Ministerial Food Bank’s telephone line redirected straight to voicemail.

Plenty of shelves were empty at the Prince Albert Food Bank last month, January was a record setting month for the food bank as they distributed 901 hampers, a total of 21,580 pounds of food. About 8 per cent of Prince Albert’s population accessed the food bank last month.

On the other line, a recorded voice shared bad news about the organization:

“Due to a significant decrease in donations of cash and groceries over the past three to four months and a significant increase in the number of clients using the food bank over the same amount of time, we regret to inform you that, as of today, Tuesday March 1, 2016, we are permanently closed.”

It was news to the Prince Albert Food Bank, whose management caught wind of the Shellbrook Area Ministerial Food Bank’s closure only after the fact.

It shouldn’t affect Prince Albert operations too much, Prince Albert Food Bank manager of operations Kerry Ramsdell said, noting; “I don’t think they had a lot of clients out there so I don’t think it’ll be too bad, but we’d be the next food bank for them to go to.”

It’s bad news for the Shellbrook area, she said, noting that she’d already received a number of concerned calls about filling the gap left in Shellbrook.

It’s a time of record-breaking food bank use in not only Shellbrook, but also the Prince Albert area, where approximately eight per cent of the city’s population used the food bank in January, at which time 900 food hampers were distributed.

According to stats from the Prince Albert Food Bank, 2,952 adults and children accessed the organization last month, which is about 8 per cent of the city’s population.

“All the food banks in the province are feeling it,” Prince Albert Food Bank executive director Wes Clark said at the time.

While Prince Albert may not be considered to be an “oil town,” Clark said that plenty of people who worked at Weyerhaeuser when it closed down in 2006 ultimately moved to the oil fields.

During the 2013-14 fiscal year, nearly 500 food hampers were distributed in November, and then nearly 470 hampers in December. In January 2014, the number jumped back up to 572 hampers.

During the 2014-15 fiscal year, 665 were hampers distributed in December and 685 hampers were provided in January. In February 2015, 735 hampers were distributed.

However, this fiscal year did not see as much of a dip in numbers. In November 2015, 885 hampers were picked up from the food bank. The next month, 847 hampers were picked up.

With notes by Kristen McEwen

Organizations: Prince Albert Food Bank, Shellbrook Area Ministerial Food Bank, Prince Albert Weyerhaeuser

Geographic location: Shellbrook

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