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COVID-19 means Saskatchewan organizations face another challenging holiday fundraising season

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WATCH: Many charities and non-profits in Saskatchewan are still struggling under the weight of the pandemic – Nov 30, 2021

To mark the second Giving Tuesday during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre is asking people a question: would you know if your neighbour was hungry?

The campaign is aiming to collect food and funding comes amid increasing food bank usage over the last six months in Saskatoon. There is typically an additional jump every December with people’s budgets pressured by the holiday season.

Read more: Saskatoon Christmas charities, toy drives struggle during COVID-19 pandemic

The situation feels like the perfect storm, according to Laurie O’Connor, executive director of the food bank.

“The pandemic, the rising cost of food and housing, inflation is really taking a toll,” O’Connor said.

“In this province, that social safety net feels threatened and there are lots of challenges with the new income assistance program.”

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Upwards of 18,000 people use the food bank every month in Saskatoon and almost half of them are kids.

Read more: Secret Santa back in action to bring Saskatoon families toys, food hampers

With the onset of the pandemic, national demand for the Salvation Army’s services in 2020 reached its highest level since the Second World War. In Saskatoon last year, an additional 2,000 families need help compared to a typical year.

“Last year, we were quite worried that we would not reach our goal, but we actually did,” said Maj. Judy Regamey with the Saskatoon Salvation Army. “The people of Saskatoon just come through.”

The kettle campaign is back in Saskatoon for 2021 with a target of $350,000. So far, the organization has brought in roughly $25,000.

“I just have no doubt we’ll raise it,” Regamey said.

Read more: Shaping Saskatchewan: Laurie O’Connor

The charity sector’s struggles during the pandemic are articulated in an Imagine Canada study released in August, which showed that more than four in 10 charities were still facing declines in revenue.

Among the groups that were negatively impacted, there was a 44-per cent average drop in revenue.

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“If you look at 2009 and the worldwide economic collapse, the average decline at the time was 1 per cent,” said Bruce MacDonald, Imagine Canada’s president and CEO.

“So it is a scale that is much greater than we have seen in the past.”

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