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Sundre's food hamper service sees shifting trends

Although number of requests for hampers remains steady, more people depending on deliveries
MVT Plus 1 Emergency Food Hamper

SUNDRE — Although use of the Plus 1 Emergency Food Hamper initiative has not substantially increased, more people who request assistance from the service seem to have become dependent on delivery.

“I’ve noticed a big trend in people that don’t have vehicles,” said Kent Janz, pastor at McDougal Chapel.  

“When we first started, people could drive out. And we’re having to do more deliveries now than we’ve ever had before,” said Janz, adding, “I don’t know why that is.”

But overall, he said the number of hampers being prepared has remained fairly steady over the past several months.  

“We average probably one a day. So, that part hasn’t changed at all.”

Statistical data recently released by Food Banks Canada in the 2021 HungerCount report indicates a nearly 30 per cent increase in food banks across Alberta since the last report, placing food bank use in the province among the highest in the country.

Nearly 116,400 Albertans visited a food bank in March 2021, representing a 29.6 per cent since the 2019 HungerCount. While 45 per cent of Alberta’s food bank users are families, about 30.5 per cent in rural areas are seniors or individuals with a disability, reads a portion of a press release.

That increase is attributed to a combination of reduced federally-funded government support programs as well as inflation.

“The fact is, food costs keep rising, and so do the basics like rent and transportation. They just can’t afford to do it all,” Arianna Scott, Food Banks Alberta interim chief executive officer, was quoted as saying in the press release.   

Numerous food banks throughout the province have also launched delivery programs and partnerships to meet the needs of seniors and isolated persons who might otherwise be unable or have difficulty accessing their local service, the statement says.

Janz has also observed a shift in residential accommodations for residents seeking a helping hand, with more people temporarily residing in motel rooms until they can find somewhere else. He attributed that trend to a combination of a housing shortage and high rental costs.

Certain segments of society, he added, seem to be hurting a lot worse than they were before.

However, community support for the Plus 1 Emergency Food Hamper service remains strong and shelves largely remain well stocked, he said.  

“That’s been amazing,” he said, adding there have recently been instances in which fresh produce like potatoes and beets unfortunately had to be turned away.

“People really want to give of their garden harvest, that’s what it is at this time of year,” he said. “We don’t have storage for that. We can’t keep it long enough.”

Although the service is not set up to store perishable food items, the community is encouraged to continue donating other items such as canned food, rice, pastas, and essentially anything non-perishable, he said.

“And school snacks!” he added, pointing out students always need fuel for school such as cookies.

“People are being very generous. And they need to continue to do that. It goes out as fast as it comes in,” he said.  

With the holiday season around the corner, Janz said he anticipates working closely with the Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society, which coordinates and delivers the Sundre Santas program.

“They do the best job with the holiday season,” he said, expressing gratitude for the society’s invaluable and innumerable contributions over the years.

“With the community’s support, Greenwood Neighbourhood Place has been so good to us,” he said, adding the non-profit organization supplies gift cards that are included in the Plus 1 program’s hampers.  

That way, he said people who get a hamper can still pick up some fresh food such as milk, eggs and bread, at Freson Bros.

Anyone who wants to know more about the Plus 1 Emergency Food Hamper service, how to help, or request assistance, can call 403-636-0554.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.
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