March 10, 2016 8:19 pm
Updated: March 10, 2016 9:41 pm

Red Deer food bank staff see ‘heart-wrenching,’ unprecedented demand

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta job losses continue to rise and, in central Alberta, many are feeling the pain. Fletcher Kent has more from Red Deer.


Everyone has heard about Alberta’s economic downturn, but staff at the Red Deer Food Bank Society see the face of it every day.

“Fear, anger, insecurity, so many things,” Fred Scaife said. Scaife is the food bank’s executive director. The look in people’s eyes as they come to the food bank sticks with him.

“My heart just goes out to them. It’s heart-wrenching.”

Since this time last year, the food bank has more than doubled the number of hampers it puts out.

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Between January and February of last year, it served 1,400 people. This January and February, it served 3,100.

READ MORE: Alberta men have higher unemployment than Canadian average for the first time since 1989 

In his 21 years in this job, Scaife has never seen anything like this. He said the current situation is even worse than it was in 2008/2009.

“We’re in totally uncharted waters here,” he said. “I’m just concerned we’ll have some bare cupboards by June.”

In terms of supply, the Red Deer Food Bank Society can usually last until fall using donations from the Christmas season. Then, traditionally, Thanksgiving donations top them up. However, if this year’s high demand continues, Scaife is worried they won’t be able to meet the growing need.

“We’re going to be in some serious trouble,” Scaife said.

He’s also noticed the demographics of clients have changed. Scaife said the number one group the Red Deer Food Bank Society is seeing now is the unemployed – people who have lost well-paying jobs and are now struggling to pay for daily meals.

READ MORE: Alberta bears brunt of January job losses as oil rout cuts across economy 

Employment agencies in central Alberta are also adapting to the needs of a new type of client.

They are seeing people in their 40s and 50s who haven’t put together a resume in decades when they wrote it with a pencil.

In the worst cases, agencies are hearing about people who have run out of Employment Insurance, have had their vehicle repossessed and now have a hard time getting to a job interview if they were able to get one.

“The smaller the community, the tougher it is,” Chris Upsdell with Employment Placement and Support Services said.

“You hear people say ‘there’s no jobs.’ Well, yes there are jobs, but if you live in a small community of a couple thousand people, there isn’t a job. There’s nothing there.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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