The Red Deer Food Bank handed out 43% more food hampers this past April than in the same month in 2014.
Fred Scaife, executive director of the Red Deer Food Bank said demand has been high.
In April 2014, the food bank gave out 338 hampers and this past April saw 592 hampers given out.
“We have here what is called our self serve area and our clients can come and they can get potatoes and bread and overstock stuff as well,” said Scaife. “The vast majority of those people don’t actually get hampers. They are the ones that are just about making it – they are right on the cusp. By coming in here and getting a few potatoes and a few loaves of bread, that is just enough to get them through.
“Last year in April we serviced 1,147 of those requests. This year in April we serviced 1,708.”
Scaife said the increase in demand is hand in hand with what is going on with the province’s economy.
“We are seeing more and more clients coming in here that are saying they are laid off more than ever before,” he said. “When we went through this recession in 2008-2009, our demand was so high that we had to renovate our client service area in order to accommodate that number of people.
“Since that time we have been used to dealing with the volume of people that we were dealing with, that quite frankly we just don’t notice it as much now. Demand continues to rise.”
Scaife added officials at the Red Deer Food Bank began to see demand increase late last year. “We saw this storm coming. We knew it was going to come.”
He added the downside to the economy decline and the increased demand is that the food bank is still running behind financially.
“We are about $200,000 short right now. Basically we have enough money to keep operating until the end of July and first part of August. We are hoping more money will come in by then,” he said. “Once we got into January and I started to work the figures – the funds had gone down and demand was going up. That is a perfect storm for us.”
Scaife said no matter what the financial situation is, the food bank will not close its doors.
“That will not happen. I will find a way. We have discussed at length the eventuality of that reality and there are a number of us that are prepared to move forward, even if we are not getting paid, because we know it will be short term.”
He added even if the economy was to rise and everyone got called back to work, the food bank would still suffer from the effects for six months to a year afterwards.
“Here’s the thing with the Alberta economy – when there is a feeling like there is going to be a downturn, the effect on us is immediate. On the other hand, when the economy improves and stabilizes, it takes anywhere from six months to a year to affect us. People fall behind and they stay behind and it takes a while to get back to where they don’t need our service anymore.”
Meanwhile, the food bank is in need of donations – both food and money. They are also looking for volunteers as they have had to lay off two of their staff members.
“For every staff member that we lay off, we need seven or eight volunteers to replace that person. We have opportunities galore for people here.”