HUNGER AWARENESS: 7-10 Club, food bank struggling with increased demand

Donations are down while costs and usage are on the increase in a tough economy.

June Gordon

June Gordon

The 7-10 Club Society might have to close its meal service for at least a week in the summer because of a decrease in donations, an increase in costs, and an increase in people using the charity.

Gord Fuller, 7-10 Club chairman, said the breakfast and bag lunch operation served about 80,000 meals last fiscal year, an 18-per cent increase over 2010. During the same period, donations were down about 25 per cent while overall food costs went up 17.5 per cent.

With pressure pulling at both ends of the economic strings, there simply might not be enough money to provide meals for at least a couple of weeks.

“Both the increase in people needing our services and the fall in donations are part of the same problem, which is the economy,” said Fuller. “The numbers are going up because more people are in need and they’re not able to make ends meet, and donations from individuals are going down because people simply don’t have the money to donate to charities anymore.”

In 2010, the 7-10 Club received $62,300 in total donations, of which $43,300 was from individuals. In 2011, it received $46,435 in donations, of which $32,800 was from individual donors.

“It’s a fact, it is tough out there,” said Fuller.

At the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, executive director Peter Sinclair is also seeing more people using the service.

While April is down in usage five per cent overall from March, the food bank’s year-over-year numbers suggest Nanaimo residents are leaning on the service more than ever.

“April tends to be a lower month for us because people get their tax returns or begin to find some seasonal work,” said Sinclair. “But we look at April 2011 and we had 3,264 adults using our services. April 2012 we had 3,912 adults. We’ve jumped considerably.”

Sinclair said many people who access the food bank are working, but not making enough money to cover basic needs like food, rent, and transportation on their own.

There is also an increasing number of people who have been able to make it on their own previously, but had an interruption in their cash flow and don’t have enough left over for food, he said.

“People can be coming here because they’re in a cash flow crunch and they’re desperate,” he said. “Sure, they drive a decent car and people like to point out they maybe shouldn’t be using the food bank, but that car may very well be about to be repossessed. There are all kinds of stories of why people need to use the food bank.”

Sinclair said while shopping at a grocery store last weekend, he saw a person stealing food. The person was tackled by store employees when he fled, but for Sinclair, it underlined the lengths people are willing to go to feed themselves and their families in tough times.

“You don’t steal food to fund your drug problem,” he said. “You steal it because you’re desperate and you’re hungry. There is definitely desperation out there for some.”

At the 7-10 Club, Fuller says he will stretch his budget as far as it will go, and will increase his requests for gaming grant money from $40,000 to $60,000 in August, and hope for the best when grant money arrives in November.

“The thing is, it’s tough to go out into the community with this because Nanaimo does a great job in supporting us and we’re not the only service seeing a drop in funding,” said Fuller. “And when we ask for an increase in grants, it may be taking away from another service that needs it just as badly as we do. We’ve had to close for a while in the past, but it’s something I don’t want to do.”

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