The amount of people using the local food bank has nearly doubled in a very short period, says Matthew Campbell, director of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen.
The Community Kitchen runs the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank (FVRFB) and Campbell said demand is starting to outpace supply.
“We have seen a huge increase in need for our food bank services,” said Campbell. “Over the last year, our numbers were growing at a steady rate, but over the last two months—inflation, gas prices, food prices—we’re seeing a lot of new people come down here.”
Campbell said in one night last week 30 new families registered to use the food bank. He noted only a few months ago they were registering an average of 20 new families per month.
“It really shows how big the need is,” added Campbell. “We’ve now got over 1,000 families registered with our food bank and were seeing well over 300 families come each week to get food.”
He said this week (June 13 & 14), they’d already served 200 families with two days to go. (The FVRFB is only open four days per week.)
About six months ago, the food bank only had 600 families registered. Campbell said about 400 of those registered families would use the food bank each month. Now with 1,000 registrants, Campbell is seeing about 800 families using the food bank per month.
“It’s quite an increase in short period.”
And while the food bank has nearly doubled the amount of families they’re serving per month, they are struggling to continue to bring in enough food to serve everyone. Campbell’s seen a significant decrease in the amount of non-perishable food donations over the last six months.
“At the beginning of COVID, everyone was thinking, ‘People are in need of food and we’ve got to feed them.’ So lots of people were making donations. A lot of companies were making donations,” explained Campbell. “But now, with the increase in prices, we’re not seeing the same amount of volume of food that we have seen over the past two years.”
He attributes some of the decrease in donations to the cost of transportation. He said before, if a skid got damaged in transit, it was usually donated to the food bank. But now, because the cost of food has gone up so much, companies are picking through damaged goods, rewrapping skids, and resending the food out to stores.
“We’re not seeing that food anymore.”
Campbell said the silver lining amid the decreases in donations of non-perishable foods, is that they are getting a lot of perishable foods from local farmers and local markets. The FVRFB has a large amount of both cold storage space and freezer storage space.
“We work really really hard with our partners to continue to get perishable foods,” said Campbell. “There aren’t a lot of other food banks that can take large amounts of perishable foods. We’ve still been doing okay with perishables.”
He said he’s very thankful to farmers and wholesalers in the area. The food bank’s been able to partner with them to get fresh food right from the fields, to the food bank, and onto people’s tables.
He said the increases in the cost of diesel has also hurt them. They have three trucks that collect food across the area and the cost to run these trucks has doubled. He said they’ve already blown through their diesel budget for 2022 and it’s only June.
“Not only are we getting less non-perishable donations, but our cost to go and get the food that is available has greatly increased.”
He said regular donors are getting squeezed too and this has also led to decreased donations.
“As the need increases, our cost has increased, but also people that have donated in the past are getting squeezed, so they are less likely to donate the amounts they have in the past,” explained Campbell.
Because of the increase in need, the Community Kitchen is starting a food drive program at the end of June.
“We are going to launch the ‘My Community Cares’ campaign,” said Meghan Neufeld, director of development for the Cloverdale Community Kitchen. “We’re looking for businesses, or churches, or anyone that has a facility that has the space for them to set up one of our donation boxes.”
Neufeld said the idea is that businesses collect non-perishables and the Community Kitchen will come to pick up the donations. The campaign is set to run from the first week of July until the first week of September.
“We are hoping that helps us get through the hardest months,” added Neufeld. “Traditionally summer is a tougher season for food banks. Donations tend to dry up in the summer and non-perishables are typically harder to get.”
Neufeld said they have 200 donation boxes they want to get out to businesses in Surrey and Langley by the end of June.
“The Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank serves families all over the area, so if we can get the boxes out to Surrey and Langley, then many people will benefit.”
Neufeld said if anyone wants to get a donation box delivered to them, they can email Sarah Sherwin via email@example.com to set up a delivery time.
For more information, visit mycck.ca.