Community food bank battling empty shelves, high demand

Social media being used to rally donations, generate awareness.

Food is flying off the shelves faster than it is coming in at Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, resulting in dangerously low reserves on the shelves and concern that people’s needs may not be met.

Alex Counsell, operations manager at the food bank, said August is typically a slow time for donations, but this year is exceptional.

“As the food comes in we ‘re packing it up and getting it out the next day so we’re not really sitting on anything. It’s pretty bare,” said Counsell. “It’s normal to be low at this time but it seems to be magnified. It seems like we’ve got more clients and less donations.”

Counsell said social media has made a difference over the past few days. With the call out for donations dominating Twitter, the community has rallied to help.

But with numbers of food bank users increasing five per cent year over year, short- term rallies don’t fill the long-term need.

“Every new client needs results in multiple amount of food going out, so the demand is exponential,” said Counsell.

Gord Fuller, chairman of the 7-10 Club Society, said that organization is also operating on a thin line. He said the possibility the service may have to close its doors for a week or two later this summer is real.

“We’re still going at this point but there is still a danger of (closing) because of donations being down so much we’re just going month to month, week,” said Fuller, adding that he continues to search for new funding opportunities while keeping operating expenditures down.

“Demand goes up because the economy sucks,” he said. “And all of the restaurant closures in the downtown recently show that.”

In 2011, 7-10 Club served about 80,000 meals, an 18 per cent increase over 2010. At the same time, donations were down 25 per cent while food costs increased 17.5 per cent over the previous fiscal year.

It’s a similar trend at Loaves and Fishes. In April 2011 3,264 adults used the service. In April 2012 that jumped to 3,912.

Counsell said many new people using the food bank include those who are still working and simply can’t cover the cost of food, rent and transportation.

“Or people who have recently been laid off,” he said. “There just aren’t that many jobs out there and the cash flow runs out pretty quick for most people.”

Loaves and Fishes has an immediate demand for canned fruits and vegetables, canned protein, and produce or dairy products.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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