Cranbrook food bank bucks provincial trend

Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Count 2012 is showing a 23 per cent increase in use across the province, but in Cranbrook usage has dropped.

Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Count 2012 is showing a 23 per cent increase in food bank use across the province, but here in Cranbrook usage has actually dropped.

Jackie Jensen, Cranbrook Food Bank manager, said the bank usually averages 400 people a month, but in October it was down to 353.

“Last year the numbers were rising,” she said.

Jensen estimates the bank is down by about 40 per month. The highest usage was in February of this year with 460 people and families accessing the bank, but the Cranbrook bank is not on par with usage being reported across the province.

Jensen isn’t sure what’s behind the trend, but said she has seen about 16 new people in the past month and families that used to access food hampers returning after many months.

“Maybe people have found work or left town,” she wondered.

As for the provincial rise of 23 per cent usage, Jensen said it could have something to do with rising grocery prices and work that is getting harder to come by.

With the Christmas holiday approaching, Jensen said it’s a busy time a year for the food bank with many fundraisers, and for the families it serves.

“Families are trying to stretch their money a bit further,” she said.

Usually that means the food bank gets an increase in usage as heating bills go up and families begin to save for the holiday season.

“People are wanting to buy gifts and dinner,” Jensen said. “There’s just more things to spend your money on.”

But with an increase in holiday usage comes an influx of fundraising as donors get in the giving spirit.

“I really can tell with donations increasing already,” Jensen said.

Two prominent fundraisers have already launched the holiday season for the food bank. Investor’s Group held a comedy tour and Mount Baker Secondary School did another fundraising event. They are the first of many fun, exciting initiatives that happen every year.

As for donations, Jensen said there are many different ways to contribute to the food bank.

“A monetary donation is always good because we know what we need to buy,” she said.

It’s common for food bank drives to bring in canned food, but Jensen said families also need fresh produce and dairy items that are handed out right away. She also said cereal and snacks for kids’ lunches are helpful. Food bank users also need toiletries and personal hygiene items which are offered up when they are available at the food bank.

“We always need those,” Jensen said. “Along with the hamper people do get a choice of what we have at the time.”

On average the food bank sees about 4,800 people and families each year. The Hunger Report tracks food bank usage from 2002 to present, and has reported a 35.7 per cent increase in usage since that time. It is reporting a 29 per cent increase in food bank usage by children across the province and a total of 96,150 people helped by food banks across the province in March.

For more on the report visit www.foodbankscanada.ca.