The Trail United Church food bank is starting to fret now that the lineup spills onto the street.
How can a volunteer service that relies on private donors continue to feed an ever increasing number of people?
“I am worried that we are not going to have enough,” says longtime volunteer Marylynn Rakuson, noting the food bank’s $2,200 monthly budget. “We are cutting back on some of the things they (patrons) like that we see as “frills” like juice and laundry soap. But we still have the regular staples – we have a philosophy that if you are hungry we will feed you, no questions asked.”
Since the church began taking food bank stats in the fall of 2009, patronage has doubled, even tripled from October to December – and it looks like the trend isn’t slowing down.
In August alone, volunteers provided sustenance for 518 people. That’s almost 200 more individuals accessing the service compared to August 2015. Last year’s count at this time neared 3,000 and by the end of December, stood at 4,620.
To date, the total already nears 3,400 individuals served, and there’s still three very busy months to go.
There’s no defining answer as to why the usage is increasing.
Rose, a lifelong Trail resident, drops into the food bank to pick up bread, soup, tuna, and a few vegetables for her neighbour.
“She gets a $900 monthly pension,” says Rose, noting the woman’s serious medical condition led to the loss of one leg. “But she has to pay $700 a month rent and pay for her heating – so I don’t know what she would do without help from the food bank.”
Rose says her friend is prone to infection and not well enough to visit the site, nor is there wheelchair access to the church basement.
“Without the food bank she couldn’t feed herself properly for her medical condition – she’d be in a bad way, really.”
Another example of a person requiring a hand up is lifelong Trail resident Cindy, 50.
She not only lends a hand to run the community service, she’s also a patron.
Cindy calls herself the “working poor,” meaning she has a full time job but by the time she pays rent, bills and helps her son who suffers a chronic condition, there’s not much left over to buy groceries.
“I’ve been volunteering here for about three years now and have seen a lot of changes, more people using the food bank,” she said. “I think there’s less work, less education and more families moving here expecting to find work and struggling when rent goes up – we definitely see more families and seniors than we used to,” she added. “And new faces, many more new faces who are struggling just as much as me.”
Understandably, feeding more people without more money coming in is worrisome, for the volunteers as well as the people relying on food bank rations.
“Someone even stopped a volunteer the other day (asking about food bank), they had just moved here from Fort Mac,” said Rakuson. “So I think we are seeing the impact of people that don’t have jobs, and there is a lot of families and that’s what I find scary.”
The food bank uses everything that is donated to make ends meet, even older fruit is made into apple sauce or jam and bread is ground into crumbs.
Overhead is the cost of groceries, because the food bank is run strictly by volunteers. And with most volunteers being retirees, patrons often pitch in to load and carry supplies down the steep flight of stairs.
“We share what we have leftover (mostly bread) with the community,” says Rakuson, mentioning the Club House and school lunch programs. “The community is generous and people are always so generous at Christmas. But by October or November, I start to get antsy – I always say that people eat 365 days a year.”
To help out the Trail United Church food bank, call 250.368.3225 or visit the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge website at cifpc.ca.