Food bank usage up in Meadow Lake

By Mac Christie

Food bank usage across Canada has increased over the last three years, and the Door of Hope in Meadow Lake is the same.

Food Banks Canada released Hunger Count 2010 on Nov. 1, which maps food bank demand across the country.

Rosemarie Metz, the director of main ministry for the Door of Hope, said every year their numbers climb a little higher.

“I started working at the food bank five or six years ago,” she said. “We would average 35 hampers per month and now we’re up to 60 hampers a month over five years.”

But while numbers are up across Canada, the report shows that in Saskatchewan, the usage has actually dropped this year.

“Provincially we’re down 8.8 per cent in 2011,” explained Bill Hall, executive director of Food Banks Saskatchewan. “But that follows an increase of 20 per cent in 2010.”

Hall noted provincially the numbers have increased from 17,751 people served by the food bank in 2008, to 20,665 this year. The food bank uses 2008 as a benchmark because that’s when the recession happened.

But even if the numbers are down this year, they’re still too high.

“We still say 20,000 is way too many,” he explained.

In Meadow Lake, Metz said 2008 was the start of an upswing.

“About three years ago it jumped really high and then over the last three years, it’s just been a steady upward climb.”

She added the Door of Hope serviced 200 more people per month at the time of the increase.

Currently, the Door of Hope, which services the City of Meadow Lake and Flying Dust, serves 67 hampers per month. But what sets them apart from other food banks is they also have a soup kitchen, one of only two food banks in the province.

In the month of October the Door of Hope served 1,555 people, which Metz noted has also increased in her time at the food bank.

“When I first started we’d set 30 places,” she said. “Now we’re putting out 60 and grabbing more.”

Hall said the problem is most of the people who use food banks are living on social assistance.

“Their income is pretty fixed, and has been for a while,” he said. “A lot of it is (increased) cost of living. I think fixed incomes are being hit harder.”

In Meadow Lake, Metz said the clientele is a made up of a lot of First Nations people, as well as students. However, she noted most of the students don’t take food hampers, but use the soup kitchen.

With the increased demand, the Door of Hope relies on food drives to keep , but sometimes has to buy food, or get it from other food banks. The group has a drive at the beginning of June, and another in October.

“We’re okay right now,” Metz said. “We had a big food drive on the first of June so by the end of August we were starting to run out of nutritious canned goods.

“We’ll probably start to (have our supplies) go down again in January.”

Metz added the food bank can always use donation of any kind.

“Food banks started many years ago with the idea of working themselves out of a job, and it’s not,” she said. “It’s a never-ending story now.”
 

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