Food will be one less thing hundreds of struggling families and individuals will have to worry about this Christmas.
Residents opened their hearts and their cupboards throughout the North Okanagan Wednesday evening for the 35th annual Realtors’ Food Drive.
In Greater Vernon, between 350 and 400 volunteers went door-to-door and collected 35,200 pounds of food, filling 55 apple crates.
In Armstrong, upwards of 20 volunteers collected approximately 10,000 pounds of food.
Food drives also took place in Enderby and Lumby.
“We did very well,” said Dawn Taylor, food drive co-ordinator.
Despite the immense generosity of the community, this year’s donations are down slightly from last year’s in Greater Vernon.
“We didn’t match last year, we’re a little bit short,” said Taylor, as 60 apple crates were filled last year.
And the need is only growing at the Salvation Army food bank in Vernon, where it’s anticipated 850 Christmas hampers will be handed out.
“We’ve interviewed significantly more this year (for hampers) than this time last year,” reports David MacBain, community ministries director.
Since the economic downturn, more people continue to rely on local food banks.
“We haven’t seen a reduction in demand,” said MacBain. “We’re still being asked by many new clients. Many are working but just can’t make ends meet.”
The growing need is similar in neighbouring communities, like Armstrong where 140 hampers were given out last year and this year they are planning to deliver 150.
Approximately half of all food bank clients are singles, but there are also a number of families.
“Approximately 30 per cent are children,” said MacBain.
Despite the growing demand at food banks, MacBain is confident they can keep up with the need thanks to events such as the Realtors’ Food Drive.
“There was a lot of new participation this year and that kind of ensures a future for this 35-year tradition,” he said, noting new realtors as well as the involvement of Junior Chamber members and help from Students Without Borders for the second year.
And the donations collected Wednesday are expected to grow, as missed households contact local realtors or bring donations down to the food bank.
“We know that many more will still come through our doors over the next few couple of days,” said MacBain.
Those struggling to make ends meet this Christmas can pick up hamper applications at the food banks, as well as the Salvation Army thrift stores in Vernon – 3102 29th Ave. and the new location at 5400 24th St. (behind Future Shop), which opens Saturday.