Shelves at the West Shore Food Bank tend to go a bit bare during the summer, but this year the store room is especially empty.
In fact, Gayle Ireland, food bank president, hasn’t seen the stock this low in 20 years. With many shelves and boxes completely empty, volunteers hope donations start rolling in soon.
Summer months are always a bit slow for donations as many community groups and schools put fundraising on hold, Ireland explained. Donations have dropped off dramatically, leaving the the food bank short on beans, soups, chili, canned pasta, stew and many other staple items.
“Beans have a lot of protein in there and right now we have none,” said food bank volunteer Lillian LeQuesne. “Until someone does a food run, we will be running low. All these boxes are empty.”
Beans are a staple in the hampers, but the food bank doesn’t have any cans of black, kidney or garbanzo beans to give away. Packing beans in the hampers allows clients to make big pots of chili, Ireland noted.
“We are getting a lot of (homeless) people who are camping out (in the community), it’s nice to have chili on hand and be able to pop the top,” Ireland said.
Currently, volunteers are still managing to pack hampers for families and individuals with enough food to last about three days. The food bank is able to purchase some items for hampers, but “it’s nice to have the extras that make it easier for people to put together a meal,” Ireland said.
“It is really nice to have the ability to pack a supreme hamper for our clients.”
If the food bank isn’t flush with donations soon, the food bank society may need to dip into reserve funds to keep serving the community. To spend reserve funds on additional food items, an emergency board meeting will have to be called.
Since January the food bank has provided 2,361 hampers feeding 5,884 people including 1,916 children.
With the start of the school year looming, the volunteers are also hopping to receive items that can be packed in school lunches. The food bank relies on donations of fruit, pudding and Jell-O cups.
The food bank is struggling with the rising costs of food in general. About four months ago volunteers stopped purchasing coffee for hampers and began spending the money on fresh fruit.
“Now every person in the family gets an apple,” LeQuesne said. “Coffee is too expensive to give.”
The West Shore Food Bank (also known as the Goldstream Food Bank) is looking for donations of chunky soups, noodle soups, crackers, cereal, beans and other staple, non-perishable items.
The society prefers cash in lieu of perishable items such as meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables or fruit, as it can purchase perishables at a discount.
To donate to the food bank, visit between 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 761 Station Ave., the first three Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each month or call 250-474-4443. See www.islandnet.com/~foodbank for more information.