April proved to be a comparatively positive month at the Red Deer Food Bank with a slight reduction in demand, officials say.
“Things look like they might be improving,” said Fred Scaife, the food bank’s executive director. “The month on month comparisons that we do all of the time – this is the first time that we’ve been outside of double digits,” he said, noting those double digit hikes in demand have been the consistent pattern of late.
“In April, it was around an eight per cent increase (in demand),” he said, adding that perhaps the increase may be less as more people came in last month just to pick up a few items in the client services area.
“I think the double digit increase that we normally would have seen is being absorbed by that because maybe there’s some more work out there, maybe some more part-time work – or maybe it’s an indication that more people are able to get back to work but it’s just taking a while for them to get back on their feet by accessing our client service area and not calling us for a food hamper,” he explained, adding it’s good to see the shift as the last 18 months in particular were extremely challenging for the organization to keep up with the need.
“We have run into more days in this last year, than ever in the history of the organization, where we have had to limit the amount of hampers going out,” he said.
“I could count on probably count on two fingers the number of times we’ve had to do that in the previous 18 years.
“This last year – year and a half – we’ve done it, on average, twice a month,” he said. On the bright side, last month – they only had to apply a limit once. “That’s another good sign.
“I was pretty excited when I went through April’s figures because it’s been so depressing these past 18 months,” he said.
In addition, the community continues to show solid support for the Red Deer Food Bank.
The recent Mormon food drive was a great success, he said. “That topped us up with the food that will help us out during the summer months,” he said. “And also, the public here in Red Deer continues to respond. By that I mean that our donation boxes in grocery stores need to be picked up on a weekly basis – some grocery stores twice a week.”
Still, in spite of a lessening of demand last month, the food bank still counts on the community for support in terms of cash to keep up with operational costs.
“In June and July, we will approach the lowest levels of bank account on an annual basis,” he said, adding that during a typical year’s last quarter is when the bulk of donations come in that ultimately carry the food bank well into the following year.
“Our bank account will start to really diminish around July,” he said. “But we got a real boost from the Kinsmen Club when they did their dream home disbursement – we received the 50/50 which I believe was about $58,000 so that was a huge bonus for us, because that will literally keep us going for another month and a half where maybe we would have been tapping into our savings account which is slim to begin with. We don’t get the opportunity to set aside a lot of money.
“Usually the money that we do set aside, we set aside in January just so we can withdraw it again in July. It’s a balancing act.”
Looking the summer, Scaife encourages folks not to forget about the food bank, as it’s a time when donations right across the board decline.