Giving is on many people’s minds during the holidays, and organizations like food banks are seeing an increase in need year-round.
Pat Stewart is one of the coordinators of the Kincardine Food Bank.
“We’re located in the Anglican Church in Kincardine. The church donates the space and we have no overhead because they pay for the electricity and other bills. Nancy Dawson and I took over in 2008, but the food bank had existed for quite some time before that. It was run by the Anglican Church Minister’s wife and a couple of volunteers,” Pat explains.
Over the past 12 months, the food bank has seen a big increase in need in the community.
“As of the end of this November, we had 2,974 people visit the food bank. And at the end of November 2021, we served 2,426, so we’re up more than 500 this year and it’s due to inflation I’m sure,” she says.
According to Pat, the individuals and families they serve are seeing an increase in the cost of gas, groceries, and rent and this is contributing to the rising number of visits to the food bank.
“We ask them to come once a month but we never turn anyone away. We’re finding more and more people are having to use the food bank more than once a month. We do give out gift cards once a month to everyone as well,” she explains.
“We do get a lot of donations at Christmas time – it’s a giving time of year. But I know that when we have to go buy things at the store, which we do frequently, we’re spending more money,” she says.
While food donations are always welcome, monetary donations also help the Kincardine Food Bank purchase items most in demand, particularly when certain items have to be thrown away.
Check the Date
“Not long ago, there were so many outdated items that we had to take them to the dump. We also had a Christmas cake brought in that someone had already eaten part of,” she says.
While it’s not uncommon for folks at home to eat a can of beans or soup that has expired by a few months at home, Pat says there are rules in place for food banks.
“We’re not allowed to give out outdated food. If something expired comes in, it has to go to the dump. We always ask to please check the dates before donating,” she says.
With a combination of donated food items and groceries purchased by the food bank to fill in any gaps, Pat says they try to give out an assortment of food when clients visit.
“We try to give everyone a package of hamburger once a month. Also basic things like Kraft dinner, coffee, tea, jam, peanut butter, pasta, cookies, basically anything you would put in your cupboard. We also supply Grub Hubs at the schools in the area. Whenever a teacher sees a child without anything to eat, the Grub Hubs have juice boxes, cheese and crackers, fruit cups, granola bars, things like that,” she says.
Fresh food is difficult to store because of its short shelf life, but they stock some items when they can.
“In the summertime, we get a lot of donations of fresh veggies from farms, it’s really wonderful. Farmers also come in with eggs. Our community is very generous,” Pat says.
Hygiene products are also needed, like laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products, and hand soap.
“We have a supplier, Anderson Paper Products. They give us a bit of a discount on toilet paper so we buy it from there. We often get some donated, but when we see about 40 clients a day, that can go quite quickly,” she explains.
Beyond the Giving Season
Food banks welcome a boost in donations during the holidays, but the need for food and hygiene supplies doesn’t end after Christmas.
“January isn’t too bad, but summertime is kind of grim. But we get a lot of monetary donations around Christmas so we put that money in the bank and when we need to buy groceries, we do,” she says.
Luckily, they have a solid team to help with a variety of tasks.
“We have a full complement of volunteers. We have someone doing our banking for us, someone checking expiry dates, we’re doing very well that way,” she says.
The community also helps to put on food drives to stock the food bank, and sometimes donations are collected at parties and celebrations.
Pat says they also provide names to other food-related organizations for families and individuals looking for additional support.
“There’s a definite increase in need. People are struggling more and we’re seeing people come to the food bank more and more often,” she says.
E-transfer donations can be sent to [email protected]. Cheques and food donations can be brought directly to the food bank.