Carrying a seven-day-old baby, a 19-year-old walked into the Surrey Food Bank on Wednesday.
She’s living on a monthly government subsidy of $500 for rent and another $283 for everything else she needs.
Her mom, who was at her side, says she does what she can, but has limited income herself.
The new mother said without the food bank, she didn’t know what she would do.
Marilyn Herrmann, executive director for the Surrey Food Bank, says sadly, the young mom isn’t unique.
The facility at 10732 City Parkway in Surrey served 153,000 hungry people last year.
“Forty-one per cent of our clients are children and babies,” Herrmann said. “We see 250 babies every week.”
Provincially, the statistics for kids attending food banks looks hopeful. Recent figures show the number of young people relying on food banks dropped from 40 per cent to 28.3 per cent over the last year.
However, in Surrey, the figure has remained at 41 per cent, partly because of the growing youthful population.
The food bank has made the decision that moms receive milk and eggs. If they’re nursing, they also get a weekly hamper (typical food bank clients are eligible for a hamper once every two weeks).
“And baby gets full nutrition for the week,” Herrmann said.
Providing those services comes at a hefty cost.
The Surrey Food Bank, which begins its Christmas fundraising campaign on Saturday, required $1.2 million last year to keep the shelves stocked.
The fund raising target for this Christmas is $400,000. That money must see the food bank through well into the new year.
“We’re spending $10,000 on baby formula every six to eight weeks,” Herrmann said. “We’re able to get it at a very reduced cost, because last year we spent more than $179,000 on baby formula.”
So formula and food for mothers remains high on the list of needs.
In addition, the Surrey Food Bank is trying this year to meet some new needs identified in the community.
That includes vegetarian hampers, introduced for the first time this year.
“What we found is that a lot of the new immigrants, the people with religious or cultural beliefs, the food items we were offering were just not adequate for their needs,” Herrmann said. “So we will provide a vegetarian hamper for people that are looking for that option.”
The food bank has been accepting donations online at its website (surreyfoodbank.org) for the past few years, and donations over the Internet are growing.
A new option for donors this year is the organization will be accepting donations by text. The address has yet to be set up.
Herrmann knows this Christmas will come and go, but the need will remain.
“Hunger knows no season,” Herrmann said. “People are not just hungry at Christmas.”
Donations of cash are most welcome, she said, because the food bank – through bulk purchases and relationships with grocers – can purchase $3 worth of food for every $1 given – but Herrmann said there’s always need for donations of canned protein, such as meat and fish, as well as canned vegetables.
The Surrey Food Bank is located at 10732 City Parkway and its website is www.surreyfoodbank.org