The amount of people using the local food bank is rising again. Earlier this year in June, use of the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank (FVRFB) nearly doubled from 600 families to slightly more than 1,000.
Now Matthew Campbell, director of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen, said there is another “massive increase” in need, as he’s had a lot of families sign up since mid-October.
The Community Kitchen runs the FVRFB and Campbell fears demand will soon outstrip supply.
“In the last two months, we’ve registered over 200 new families,” said Campbell. “Most of them are new Canadians and they haven’t been able to get established.” He added that only a few months ago they were registering an average of 20 new families per month.
He said many are coming from refugee camps, but the new signups also include some people that have been in Canada for many years.
“With the cost of food at the grocery store right now, it’s hitting people hard,” he added. “They’re now saying the increase in food cost for an average family is going to be over $1,000 a year.”
Campbell explained the increase is putting “people over the top” for those living paycheque to paycheque. He said those people are now relying on a food bank to make it through.
Campbell’s running a Christmastime food drive to help. A few local businesses are helping too by hosting food donation bins at their businesses.
He said the biggest way people can help is by donating to the Cloverdale Community Kitchen.
“People can drop off donations right here,” he said. “We take food donations, but we also take cash. If people want to give us cash, we can put gas in the truck and then we can go and pick up skid loads of food from people that can donate if we can get the truck there.”
Campbell said they also have relationships with food suppliers where they can buy bulk food at inexpensive prices.
“If we do have to buy certain foods, then we can get that wholesale,” he added. “So when people make a donation online, or drop off a cheque here, it makes a huge difference in being able to get food into people’s mouths.”
Campbell said the need is getting even more stretched out because the families that have signed up over the last two months are bigger than what they’re used to.
“Our new average family size is now about six people per household,” he explained. “That could include an intergenerational family with a grandparent or two and then parents and the kids, or a mom and a dad and four kids.”
Campbell said with demand so high, they’ve closed off registrations outside the Langley, White Rock, and Surrey areas. This is a change from their old policy of taking people from anywhere. He said they just can’t fill the local need, so they’ve had to shrink the geographical area they serve.
He added it’s been harder as of late because some smaller food banks in the area have closed registrations completely and the FVRFB, and others, have had to fill in.
“Last week we had a client show up from Langley,” Campbell siad. “She lived over near 232 and a small food bank there, which was run out of a church, wasn’t taking anymore registrations. They had capped out. Even though she lived nearby, she’s now travelling here just to get food.”
Campbell said he’s talked to other food bank directors in other towns and they’re all filling up their registration numbers.
“We’re getting full too, but we’re still committed to helping as many people as we can,” he added. “We’re still taking people, but we’re getting close to the limit of how many people we can take.”
He said in the week previous, they had record numbers come through to use the food bank as 500 families came for food. (The used to serve an average of 300 people in the summertime.)
“Around Christmastime, a lot of families definitely feel the pinch because it’s year end, but this year there’s far more need than ever,” he explained. “At year’s end it can be hard because you have families with an income earner that may work a seasonal job. So there’s always extra costs at Christmas.”