Seasonal demand high at food bank

The festive season is a busy time of year at the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre.

Volunteers at the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre pack food hampers for the holiday season. In recent years

The festive season is a busy time of year at the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre, with a heavy demand for food and other assistance.

John Bubb, president of the food bank, said the number of seasonal hampers distributed this year is expected to stay around the same as last year, when 140 hampers were distributed.

However, while the number of hampers is expected to remain constant, the centre, in the lower level of Summerland United Church, is seeing an increase in the number of people who need to use its services.

“We seem to be busier and busier,” Bubb said. “Food is not the only problem people have. We’re addressing other things they need in their lives.”

The centre has clothing for those in need, provides counselling services and has an odd job program. The odd job program provided 41 temporary jobs for people within the community.

In addition, 80 people came to the centre for showers and 58 came to do their laundry. Those numbers have been increasing, Bubb said.

During the 12 months which ended on Oct. 31, the food bank provided service to 239 households, representing a total of 522 people.

Of those who benefitted from the food bank, 169 were children.

A total of 50 volunteers recorded at least 1,080 hours at the centre.

“There are some very dedicated people,” Bubb said. “Their efforts are very much appreciated.”

Food banks across Canada have seen an increase in activity over the past year, according to statistics gathered by Canadian food banks.

The largest increases were in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but British Columbia also saw a slight increase in food bank use.

Bubb said two factors contribute to the increasing need at the food bank and resource centre.

The high cost of housing provides challenges for many who are on low incomes, since housing prices and rent rates in Summerland are high.

The need for low-cost housing has been discussed in the past, but providing housing will be a lengthy and costly process.

“It’s a tremendous challenge,” Bubb said. “We’re an expensive community in terms of housing prices and rents. The closer someone is to the line of poverty, the harder it is.”

He added that while there are groups within the community pursuing low-income housing options, such initiatives take a lot of time and effort.

He said at least one person receiving assistance from the food bank is living in a car. Another spent the summer tenting in a campground in order to save up enough money to pay for shelter in the winter.

“The ways people overcome a lack of income can be quite innovative,” Bubb said.

Low social assistance rates are another factor affecting the demand at the food bank.

Bubb said the provincial rates have not increased since 2007, although other costs have increased since that time.

The majority of the food bank donations almost 80 per cent come in between Nov. 15 and the end of the year.

Bubb said all donations are welcome, but donations of money are preferred. Staff and volunteers at the food bank are able to purchase in bulk to get the necessary items.