Demand at the Red Deer and District Food Bank continues to see unprecedented and record numbers, officials have said.
“It’s been challenging with the numbers of people coming in – and record numbers – it puts a strain on resources, our volunteers and our staff,” said Fred Scaife, executive director at the food bank. “I have concerns because the demand is not going down – it continues to go higher and higher. If we have gone from double-digit increases through the first half of the year to now, in the last quarter of the year, triple-digit increases, and those triple-digit increases themselves start increasing, there is more coming and it takes its toll on the organization. It is an extremely hectic pace and we have never had to deal with it before.
“Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think it was going to get this bad.”
In September 2015, the Red Deer Food Bank gave out 371 hampers. This past September, that number more than doubled as the food bank gave 747 hampers away to those in need.
As well, in September 2015, the food bank helped 511 adults, while this past September saw 1,055 adults being helped by the organization. The number of children in need of services at the food bank has also doubled. In September 2015, 342 children were fed by the food bank while this past September saw that number grow to 629.
In September, the Red Deer and District Food Bank helped 331 families. In September 2015, the number of families helped was 171.
The Pet Food Bank numbers have also doubled, Scaife said.
“It is getting worse. In the month of September alone for the difference in children was 201 per cent more. I had to add those figures up three times because I just couldn’t believe it, it is so mind-numbing to think that many people are coming to the door,” Scaife said.
He added in his 18 years of being the executive director of the Red Deer and District Food Bank, he has never seen the circumstances so dire.
“This is off the charts. The depth of the despair right now in some of these people – there are people on our client list right now that were on our donor list two years ago – what a fall from grace that is. These people are ill-prepared to do this, they are totally out of their element and the looks on their faces are heart-wrenching.”
However, Scaife added there is a bright side to the situation.
“There is a silver lining to this dark cloud. I had predicted back in January and February to the board of directors barring some miracle we’re going to be out of food by July and I saw no way around it – and yet we haven’t run out of food,” he said. “The community has responded day after day with bags of groceries. Typically from February to July we take in very little donations, but this year, the amount of donations is overwhelming.”
He added donations are still coming in but there is concern about the shelves being empty soon.
“Our shelves will soon be the emptiest they will be all year long,” said Scaife.
Meanwhile, Scaife said he hopes the community will continue to respond to the need.
“Money is huge for us right now. With the increase in demand, we’ve also had an increase for those hard to donate items like meat, margarine and that kind of stuff,” he said. “We also need the food too. Whatever someone wants to give us – if you can’t give us money and you can’t give us food, please give us your time.”