An increasing number of community members are relying on food supports in Lethbridge as inflation continues to take its toll on their pocketbooks.
Ahead of the Thanksgiving long weekend, the Lethbridge Food Bank Society has been taking extra care to supply families with the items they need to craft a special meal, such as stuffing, cranberries, ham, chicken, or turkey.
“Thanksgiving is very food-focused, so a lot of families need that support because it’s their time to come together over a plate,” explained executive director Mac Nichols.
“We’re having a lot of families coming in this week.”
While donations help stock the shelves, the food bank often has to purchase product themselves, impacting both the organization and its clients.
The higher cost of meat has been especially sobering.
“Turkeys are up about about 25 per over last year,” Nichols said.
“A $10 turkey is now costing us $12.50, which is a big jump for us when you put that on a scale of 600 families. It really starts adding up quickly.”
When it comes to overall need, the demand has grown exponentially over the past year or so.
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According to Nichol, an average of 50 to 100 more families per month are seeking food hampers.
“Frankly, a lot of it we’re noticing is just coming from normal families that are in a position where they can’t support their family as best as they could, because of the cost of food and utilities, and all these things starting to come in” Nichols said.
Their volunteer pool has also shrunk, which Nichol believes could be due to people needing to take extra hours at work to focus on themselves before being able to assist others.
“Which is completely reasonable.”
Students and seniors seek support
The University of Lethbridge and its Students’ Union (ULSU) offers a variety of food supports, including a handful of food pantry shelves situated across campus.
The stations are stocked with non-perishable items, ready for students to take.
Kairvee Bhatt, president of the ULSU, said the need as increased over the past couple of years, with international students making up a large portion of those clients.
“Given the trends that we had found throughout the past few years of the pandemic, there was an increased surge in usage in September 2021 and we’re seeing a similar trend this October 2022, as well,” Bhatt explained.
“We’re finding instead of food hampers themselves, the gift cards have been a really great way for students to purchase items for their dietary needs and their restrictions,” she added.
Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to seniors in the community, has also seen a spike.
The program is run through the Lethbridge Senior Citizens’ Organization (LSCO). They’re expecting to deliver 150 meals this weekend.
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“What we’re seeing a lot, especially in the last few months, is a little bit of a higher uptake for Meals on Wheels because (it’s) a pretty nutritious meal every day and it’s reasonably inexpensive, and our volunteers deliver it right to people’s doors,” explained LSCO executive director Rob Miyashiro.
Miyashiro said he’s also hearing of rising rent costs for some seniors, which puts a dent in their ability to afford other necessities.
“When you’re on a pension there’s no other way to get money, unless you want 85- or 90 year-olds to start working again.”
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