By Greg Price
With mounting pressure from a less-than-ideal economy, the Taber Food Bank is still maintaining a can-do attitude and is hoping the community is the same with its upcoming ‘Yes We Can’ Food Drive featured at Taber IGA and Taber Co-Op this Saturday.
Food bank use across the province is rising and the Taber Food Bank is no exception, as the organization has seen a 30 per cent increase since last year. The economic strain is tricking down to all jobs, and those on fixed incomes are facing higher living costs and are unable to meet their basic needs.
“Just in January and February, our numbers have gone up 25 per cent and they’ve gone up since then,” said Vicki Koersen, president of the Taber Food Bank. “What we are finding is it’s not just the oil economy. Just even with some of the businesses in Taber shutting down or are going with skeleton crews. And when those businesses that are going with a skeleton crew, those people who were laid off, they need to access the food bank. Not just with the oil sector, we’ve certainly seen an increase of everyone coming in.”
That has forced the Taber Food Bank to try and stretch out its hampers and cut corners where they can.
“We were lucky enough in that we had enough money put aside (from last year) that we could afford a full-time staff member for this year. That’s great, but with food costs going up and with an extra wage we have to pay, that won’t last long,” said Koersen. “We reduced the size of our pick shelf up front. Typically, it’s set up like a grocery store. When we were getting shipments from Calgary we would pick out boxes of granola bars, or other things that were not viable food options — like things you could live off of for a month — and sticking things like that up front. That area up front is almost gone.”
The food bank has two fridges for things like yogurt, fresh produce and baked good from daily bread runs.
“And then there is one shelf unit with those extra bits and we’ve greatly reduced those areas. We’ve started to add those extra items into the food hampers,” said Koersen. “Our donations are not coming like they used to. Calgary has seen such an increase in their food banks that we are not getting the shipments we are usually getting. There have been four food banks in northern Alberta who have shut their doors. They do not have the money and they have not been getting the donations. This is critical in Alberta with corporate donations going down.”
The food drive goes from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday where volunteers will be on hand to greet customers and transport food to the food bank.
“There will be lists available at both stores, so when people come into the store, needs will be outlined. Things like canned meats, spaghetti,” said Koersen. “Co-Op also has those $10 food-drive bags with contests set up. Taber has been a great community and has been very supportive of the food bank and we are very thankful to the community.”