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Innisfail food bank faces dramatic use increase

Large-scale support to help the needy in Innisfail and area will soon arrive
Heather Taylor, co-coordinator of the Innisfail and District Food Bank, said her agency has experienced an unprecedented recent demand for service increase that has far exceeded her agency's steady year-over-year rate. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – As a recent national food bank report shows increasingly dire food insecurity across the country and province for 2023 the Innisfail and District Food Bank has only recently encountered an unprecedented demand for service.

In late October the 2023 HungerCount Report from Food Banks Canada was released.

In Alberta the report showed a “jaw-dropping” 94 per cent increase in food bank access since 2019.

In the City of Red Deer, the food bank has become 81 per cent busier since March of  2019.

During the 2022-23 fiscal year, the Red Deer Food Bank moved 53,630 pounds out of its facility to 18 rural food banks in the Innisfail, Red Deer County and Olds areas, ones that serve the municipalities of Didsbury, Sundre, Cremona, Carstairs and  Mountain View County.

Heather Taylor, co-coordinator of the Innisfail and District Food Bank, said she has read the report and while it paints a serious overall situation across Canada and Alberta the scenario in Innisfail is different.

“We are running about a 17 per cent increase year-over-year. They were talking 42 per cent and higher. We ran at a 17 per cent increase year-over-year for months. It’s still an increase but it's not dire.”

However, there is now a sudden troubling change.

While September’s demand for service figures showed it was up 17 per cent compared to the same month in 2022, October’s statistics doubled; skyrocketing to 34 per cent over what was seen a year earlier.

Taylor said her agency has never seen such a dramatic increase.

“We had 17 new clients, and we had an increase in the number we served,” said Taylor. “I know in the first week in November we had 48 hampers given out in one week. The highest before that was 37.

“I know we are serving more families We are also serving more single people,” she said. “When you think about 17 new clients in a month our average is about 11 new clients.

“They don't always come back every month,” added Taylor. “That trend doesn't necessarily carry on but obviously it's carrying on now since summer.”

As for the cause for the dramatic jump in demand, Taylor said she’s hearing stories of rent increase hardship, as well as general affordability made more challenging as the community moves into the holiday season.

“There's no doubt in my mind that maybe they use the food bank because that saves them a week's groceries,” said Taylor, adding eligible citizens can use the food bank once a month if they justifiably need the service.

In the meantime, there is significant and reliable relief coming.

On Nov. 6 the Alberta government announced a $10 million program to help food banks and community organizations across the province.

Last year the Innisfail food bank received a total of $45,000 from a direct provincial contribution and then through a matching grant.

Taylor said she believes it’s “realistic” the Innisfail food bank can count on receiving $15,000 from the new provincial grant, which was the same direct provincial contribution amount as last year.

“As far as the $15,000 that's probably realistic. I know some food banks that got more than that. I'm not sure how they decided to divide it,” said Taylor, adding it’s uncertain at this time when the provincial funds will arrive.

And there will soon be more relief arriving; large annual contributions that will help mitigate the new concerning demand for service numbers.

The CPKC Holiday Train is coming through the local region on Friday, Dec. 8, with stops in Innisfail, Olds and Didsbury. There will be an annual donation to each food bank in the region.

Last year the Innisfail food bank received a cheque for $3,500 from the holiday train.

The Innisfail RCMP 27th annual Charity Check Stop is set for Dec. 2 on 50th Street between 48th and 49th avenues. Last year the event raised a total of $15,735 in cash and cheques, along with 542.2 pounds of food for the Innisfail food bank.

On Jan. 5 the second annual Battle of the Badges hockey game between the Innisfail RCMP and Innisfail Fire Rescue will be held at the Innisfail Twin Arena. The inaugural event raised more than $6,000 and 1,487 pounds of food for the local food bank.

And during the first week of December the food bank will be distributing free turkeys to needy families and hams to single citizens.


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