The Red Deer Food Bank Society is stuck in a tough time with donations being very sparse and a new program to plan for.
Executive director Fred Scaife said that usually around this time of year, donations are coming in steady. However, that is not the case this season and the food bank is operating within an unusually tight budget.
“Our cash donations are down by almost 70 per cent right now. It’s causing me some concern. I looked at our financials and we are inside of a six-week envelope of money to operate with,” Scaife said.
“We have no trust fund. We don’t have money stashed away in the bank somewhere. That budget was made with every pocket checked, all the money in the cushions collected – every last thing we could find. Six weeks. That causes me a lot of concern – at this part of the year, we usually start to see a lot of donations coming in and it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m not sure why.”
The Food Bank Society is concerned that with the lack of funding coming in they will not be adequately prepared to deal with the high volume of clients that access the services.
A major concern for Scaife is the fact that after December, people don’t realize how busy the Society gets. He very much wants the public to understand that the food bank is around all year, not just December.
“For the 18 years that I have been here, I have told people the same thing – Christmas is no big deal. We are here before Christmas and we are here after. The reality is that we’re going to be here in January, and February, and March – those are actually the most high demand periods of the year for us because people go through such a stressful time at Christmas.”
Scaife is putting out the call to the community so people realize that without donations, the food bank simply cannot operate. He said it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain the operation and to keep up with the ever-increasing amount of people who require assistance.
The board is looking at a number of ways to bring the number of clients down. One of the ways they are looking to do so is through a new program titled ‘The Kitchen Project.’
The idea behind the program is to teach life skills such as finding affordable food and understanding how to cook. The idea began several years ago and has solidified and gained the support of the board. Scaife said the Society is looking to the community to help fund this project.
“We now want a teaching kitchen here at the food bank for clients to learn how to prepare low-cost meals. If it’s food that makes the difference in your budget on a monthly basis, we can fix that,” Scaife said.
“We’re accumulating equipment, but what it really comes down to is we need the money. Then we can make the initial step. It’s going to require a tremendous amount of commitment. Our board is fully committed to the idea but what we need now is support from the community. We’re looking at between $300,000 to $400,000 cost for this.”
The number of users of food banks nationally is on a rise. According to the Food Banks Canada web site 841,191 Canadians use food banks each month. According to Scaife, the Red Deer Food Bank fed 190 families in the month of October, and that the increase in users from 2013 to 2014 was 5%.