It’s a familiar pattern for the volunteers at the Friends in Need Food Bank – the Christmas rush comes, people give tonnes of food and piles of cash, allowing the food bank to build up its reserves for the coming year. But when those reserves run down, the stress level runs up for those trying to find enough food and cash to fill the monthly hampers that feed the hungry.
Lately, though, some major corporate help is making it easier for the food bank.
“They’re very much coming on board,” said Mary Robson, acting executive-director for the food bank. “They’re really stepping up. These promotions that some of these corporations are doing are huge.”
For the last three years, The Share Program has made a big difference.
Thrifty Foods, Market Place IGA, Coopers and Safeway are all part of the program, in which shoppers can buy a $2 “share coupon” when they’re paying for their groceries. Those coupons are regularly collected by the food bank from each of the stores, then used to buy food stuffs as needed.
For example, recently the food bank ran out of tomato sauce and chunky soups. Thanks to the program staff were able to hunt around for the best deal and replenish supplies.
“We haven’t yet had to go into our cash reserves because of the Share Program,” Robson said.
Because of the success of Share, the society recently approved giving out milk and eggs twice a month to families and seniors.
“We wouldn’t be able to do that if the Share program wasn’t successful.”
Normally, the food bank gives out a hamper or bag of groceries every month, while providing some extras, such as meat, fruit or bread once a week, depending on availability.
Other programs help too. Save-on Foods and Campbell Company of Canada are cooperating on the Help Hunger Disappear program, now in its sixth year. Campbell’s products are discounted by $1, while Campbell’s will make cash donations.
There is also Envision Financial’s, The Full Cupboard program, in which the credit union will raise $1 million for local food banks over the next decade.
To kick-off the program, Envision Financial is making a $5,000 donation to Food Banks B.C. and $1,000 donations to each of the 11 food banks in the 10 communities where the credit union operates – resulting in a total investment of $16,000.
Mark’s and Westminster Savings are two of the other major corporate donors noted on the food bank’s website, while the new Target store will also be helping out.
While there’s no sudden panic in the number of people needing food, the recent number of now more than 700 registrants, provided to Food Bank Canada, shows a steady increase.
“When I see young families coming in with children … how can this be? What’s wrong with our society that they have to rely on the food bank. It’s just the cost of living, families on welfare … ”
Friends in Need has more than 60 volunteers and 1.5 paid staff.
“I’ve never seen a group of more dedicated volunteers. They really are dedicated. They come in at six o’clock in the morning and do their four or five hours and they come back the next day.”