June through to September, a typically lean time for giving, was tough for the Food Bank. The Food Bank had to end their milk coupon program, due to the costs. The coupon program gave people a voucher to take to Sobey’s, and the Food Bank would pay them in what they collected from coupons. An increase in demand went from around $250 a month to closer to $400 a month.
What could have been a hard Christmas though turned around quickly this year. Peter Fountain, treasurer of the Food Bank, says the number of people who give donations in lieu of presents for Christmas has gone up a fair bit, which gave them a much-needed boost.
The Food Bank is starting 2011 with a surplus of $10,000, about what they had last year, but with food costs and demand going up it means the dollar doesn’t stretch quite as far. In January, they spend $2,500 alone, on top of the Christmas donations.
“It’s going to be questionable, with the number of people coming to the Food Bank, how long that surplus is going to last,” said Fountain.
Liz Aucoin says last year they had 322 clients, some coming once or twice but many coming monthly.
“Demand overall I would say is up over 30 per cent,” she says.
Clients also started coming more often as well, going from a month to three weeks.
Aucoin says some people ask about abuse, and it does happen like in any system. However she says you can’t turn people away just because they are coming more often.
“You can’t say no to people with children. We’re in the mercy business.”
Most of the time, she says it’s very difficult for people to even come to the food bank. Aucoin adds there is a lot of stigma attached with being on a low income, and it’s hard to overcome. However there is a variety of reasons why people need the food bank.
“A lot of times people are really ashamed to come, especially if someone is between jobs,” she says. “I think people would be shocked to see how long people who have problems ask for help.
“Some people think we are creating a dependence, but we’re not. We’re answering a need.”
There are challenges beyond just food as well, says Aucoin.
“If your residence is cold, and it likely is if you’re on a fixed income, and your water heater doesn’t work as well, you’re less likely to take showers.”
Feed Nova Scotia provides some personal hygiene products, as well as some from individual donations. The Food Bank also gives dog and cat food to those that need it.
The Food Bank also had to develop a strategy for dealing with divorced couples. Before, only the parent with custody would get food for their children. They came up with a solution to distribute the same amount of food for the family as if they were still together, and that way it keeps things equitable.
The Food Bank could always use more volunteers as well, especially when the food is distributed on Mondays. Aucoin says phone lists don’t seem to work that well though.
“If you want to volunteer, just come,” she say.
She say they especially need people who can lift heavier items, both in unloading the truck from Feed Nova Scotia and boxing food for people to take.
“We’re better off if people come or call to see if they are needed,” she says.
They also need to restock on Tuesdays too, so people can call and ask if they are needed on those days.
The Food Bank is holding their annual meeting on Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in St. Gregory’s Church Hall in Liverpool. Anyone is eligible to become a member of the Food Bank. Storm date for the meeting is a week later on March 14.