It may be hard to imagine in a place like St. Albert, but more families than ever are relying on the food bank for a decent meal this holiday season.
For the past nine months, the St. Albert Food Bank has been playing catch-up to meet increasing demand as more people lose their jobs and find themselves struggling to make ends meet.
This year, the food bank gave out close to 100 Christmas hampers and will be helping the Rotarians hand out at least another 40.
Last year, around 120 Christmas hampers were given to St. Albert families in need.
When all is said and done, close to 5,500 people will be served through the food bank this year, which represents close to 1,600 families — an increase of 26 per cent from the previous year.
The sad thing is, said Suzan Krecsy, executive director of the food bank, many of those who use the service have jobs but can’t seem to keep up with the high cost of living in a turbulent economy.
“There is a lot of people that are really struggling to make ends meet,” said Krecsy. “It’s hard keeping up with the amount of clients that are coming in. That’s always a struggle.”
According to Krecsy, statistics show there was a 61 per cent increase in food bank usage throughout Alberta in 2009, an increase she said is alarming and should be a wake up call for the federal government.
The next highest province for food bank usage was Nova Scotia, which reported a 20 per cent increase.
Krecsy said the economy certainly plays a big role for such a high increase. Food Banks Canada is suggesting it could take 12 to 18 months for many people to get out of the financial position they find themselves in now, meaning food banks could see higher than normal numbers for at least another year.
As for the people who are using the local food bank, 29 per cent were single parent families, 23 per cent were from two parent families, 28 per cent were working and about six per cent were on pensions or unemployment.
At this time of the year, the food bank teams up with the Rotarians, Kinettes and Salvation Army to make sure all families in need are reached and nobody falls through the cracks.
A typical Christmas hamper comes with a host of items for breakfast, lunch and a Christmas dinner, which includes turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, fresh carrots, potatoes and apple pie.
The good news is St. Albert residents don’t turn a blind eye on those in need and have continued to step up to meet the increase in demand for food supplies.
“This town is second to none when it comes to the generosity,” said Krecsy. “People are really thinking about what would make some other family happy, especially at this time of the year.”
The St. Albert Food Bank has been around for 25 years and has between 60 and 65 volunteers, mainly seniors.
The service collects donations throughout the year and is always in need of food for children’s lunches, such as granola bars, fruit cups, canned meats and heat-up soups.
Other supplies in demand include powdered milk, evaporated milk, sugar, flour, oatmeal and fresh produce.
Throughout the Christmas season, large bins have been placed in every grocery store for food collections, which have all been relatively full, added Krecsy.