As Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit funds come to end, more and more New Brunswickers are struggling to make ends meet amid the coronavirus pandemic, and food banks in New Brunswick are gearing up for a surge in demand.
Fredericton Food Bank says there’s been an increase in the number of users since the pandemic began.
“We’ve seen people in these last seven months who have never been to a food bank in their entire lives, they’ve been gainfully employed,” said executive director Alex Boyd.
Food bank volunteer Linda Wood said new users are a mix of students who are isolating, seniors and others who don’t have enough.
To keep up with increasing demand, the Fredericton Food Bank changed their operational plan to a fast-paced, zero-contact drive thru operation. The food bank also increased the amount of food given to each family.
“We’ve doubled the milk, doubled the eggs, we’ve increased the produce,” Boyd said.
The food bank is preparing to see another significant increase in usage as CERB ends and the second wave of COVID-19 begins.
Those eligible for CERB have been receiving $2,000 for a four-week period, and could re-apply for up to 28 weeks, since April.
Wood says she fears the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 without the benefit.
As of now, the group says there are no long lines at the Fredericton Food Bank for pick-up. They say demand for at-home food deliveries has drastically increased.
Prior to the pandemic, deliveries went out just two or three times a month, Boyd said.
“Now, we are delivering four to five days a week — 25 times the number of deliveries we do typically — just because there are more people who are, because of health concerns, nervous to be out in the public,” said Boyd.
The Fredericton Community Foundation has been on-site giving a hand and offering donations to the food bank, in addition to other nonprofits in the area.
“We have $152,000 to grant to community this fall. Any of those working on the front lines with COVID-19, working with vulnerable populations who have been particularly affected through the pandemic,” said Kate Rogers, the Fredericton Community Foundation Executive Director.
Demand is through the roof and the food bank is short on volunteers, Boyd said. He is asking the public for their assistance.
“Even if someone can only volunteer three hours a week and come in for one shift, that would be a huge help,” he said.