“It’s their first time’: More people than ever are turning to food banks under COVID-19

Click to play video: 'B.C. food banks feel strain of holiday season during pandemic' B.C. food banks feel strain of holiday season during pandemic
With Christmas around the corner, food banks across the province are seeing a spike in demand. As Kylie Stanton reports, some are considering drastic solutions to meet the needs of hundreds of families. – Nov 27, 2020

With the holiday season fast approaching, food banks around the province say they are noticing a concerning trend.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect businesses and livelihoods as the second wave gains ground, and more people than ever are turning to food banks for help. In addition, fewer people are able to make donations.

Kim Metzger, the president of the food bank in Sooke on Vancouver Island, told Global News that before COVID-19, staff would provide for about 70 families a week. Now, they provide for about 104 families on average, and that’s considered a slow week.

“That’s a lot of people and a lot of food, and when the tourist-driven industries out here are not able to operate to full capacity, that really affects our communities. That really affects people’s income,” she said.

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“It’s a different clientele. It’s people who are not used to coming to food banks. It’s their first time. They’re used to being the people who drop a bag off food in the bin — they’re not used to coming and taking food.”

Click to play video: 'How the pandemic impacted food banks' How the pandemic impacted food banks
How the pandemic impacted food banks – Jul 19, 2020

Read more: Saskatoon Food Bank remains closed after staff members test positive for COVID-19

Volunteer Gerry St. Laurent said he delivers 15 to 20 hampers every week now for people who can’t or won’t leave their homes.

“It’s more stressful for a lot of people,” St. Laurent said. “We’re at a point where all the volunteers we have [are required] to be social distancing and we can’t get any more volunteers in because of social distancing.
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“If any of us got COVID, the food bank would be shut down.”

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Impacting the operation further, Metzger said they desperately need a big enough space where they can not only provide food and hampers, but also work on preventative measures around food security.

Read more: Food Bank Friday: Lake Country Food Bank prepares for busy holiday season

By Christmas, she said they expect to need $320,000 worth of food to feed everyone.

And every food bank is feeling this level of need, she added.

“It’s a scary situation out there. I think unless you’ve had to walk in a food bank line, you don’t know.”

Anyone wanting to donate food or money to their local food bank can go to FoodBanksBC to find a local facility.

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