As demand for services offered by the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank rises thanks to COVID-19, the non-profit faces a supply crunch in face of new public health orders that have impacted traditional food drives.
Perhaps the most significant impact stems from the modification of the Peninsula Firefighters Christmas Food Drive. This food drive traditionally sees crews from the three fire departments on the Saanich Peninsula collect cash and non-perishable food items in what amounts to a massive curbside pick up.
Last year firefighters collected some 20 pallets of food and $15,000 in cash donations, previous years they’ve gathered 22 pallets.
While the departments have modified their fundraising by placing donations bins at local grocery stores, Bev Elder, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank, said the change will have an impact. “People are still bringing in donations, but we are not ever going to get to those 22 pallets of food,” she said.
Supply concerns have coincided with growing demand. Whereas the food bank traditionally helps anywhere between 800 and 900 people this time of year, this figure has risen to anywhere between 1,000 to 1,200. Applications for the food bank’s annual Christmas Hamper is up to 340 this year from 300 last year.
Elder said the increase reflects the economic realities of COVID-19 as residents continue to deal with the effects of unemployment among other factors.
The composition of users has also changed. “We are getting a lot more families coming in and a lot more seniors,” she said.
The food bank continues to receive federal and provincial help to cover additional costs caused by COVID-19 mitigation measures as well as to purchase additional food.
Elder expects the weeks leading up to Christmas to be busy.
“We are working long hours to be able to accept donations,” she said. “We are working the weekends now. Basically, we don’t miss a day in December just to make sure we got everything in place to feed people.”
Whereas the food bank traditionally opens Mondays to Fridays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., current donation hours run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.
Residents who want to help can donate at splfoodbank.com. Help is also on the way from North Saanich, whose council Monday tasked to immediately distribute $50,000 to the food bank.
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