Local food bank works to keep up with soaring food costs

Submitted photo The full stock room at the St. Stephen Food Bank.

ST. STEPHEN – As the cost of food continues to rise, the St. Stephen Food Bank works to support the vulnerable community members they serve.

“The already marginalized are even more marginalized now … and it’s sad,” said food bank co-ordinator Donna Linton.

The food bank serves 200 households, equaling out to approximately 500 individuals with children accounting for 30-60 of that figure. Comparatively, when Linton started at the food bank in 1993, it served 50 households. Eighty per cent of the food bank users are single or unattached couples.

“They have no family … no emotional or financial support,” Linton explained.

Many of the community members suffer from chronic illnesses that deem them unemployable.

“They do the best they can, and they’re grateful.”

On average, the households using the food bank use the services for six to 18 months. Many will use the services for the rest of their lifetime.

“It’s hard to get up when you’re already down,” Linton said.

She highlights the challenge to escape poverty when you’re unaware you’re in it. As housing and costs of necessary bills rise, the living environment for the most vulnerable declines, and they continue to face adversity.

“Someone once said to me ‘money is liquid. If you’ve got it, you can pour it,’” she said.

As product shortages affect the general population, Linton says they also affect the food bank. Supplies cost $1,000 biweekly, which includes dairy, protein, and non-perishables. Unfortunately, with heightened costs Canadians are facing, the allotted funds can’t be stretched as far as they used to.

With the scarcity of stock on shelves and the uncertainty of product availability, the food bank has no choice but to occasionally buy non-economical options, just so those dependent on the food bank have what they need to get by.

Linton predicted that the food bank could see the current $80,000 spent each year nearly doubling in 2022.

Although the food bank has not yet seen a significant increase in more community members seeking their services, the current citizens they do serve are experiencing enhanced difficulties making the food they receive stretch the same distance.

Linton and the food bank place a big emphasis on providing protein and dairy to every household. With a third of the supplies coming from the Food Depot Alimentaire, it makes the goal attainable, but becomes more challenging as prices continuously rise.

“An everyday soup kitchen in the community would help,” Linton said, noting the soup kitchen could have the ability to feed 40 people once a day.

The supplies food banks provide their communities with are essential, she says, however many of the food bank users may lack the necessary skills or tools required to prepare the food they’re supplied.

In the past, the food bank has organized pots and pan drives.

“It’s a small solution, but it helps,” said Linton, adding they hope to organize another drive in the future.

Throughout her years at the food bank, Linton has noticed that asking for help when you need it is one of the hardest parts for people. She urges people to reach out when they need something and to look out for their neighbours.

“Just ask, it’s okay.”

The food bank now offers delivery to community members requiring the food bank’s assistance.

“If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that not everyone has transportation at their fingertips,” Linton said.

The food bank is currently looking for an in-centre volunteer on Tuesdays, and a volunteer food shopper. They are always accepting new volunteers.

For more information, contact the food bank at 506-466-4995 or volunteercentre1982@hotmail.com.