Food bank demand climbs 87 per cent
There appears to be more local residents struggling to put food on the table than elsewhere in Canada.
Between 2008 and 2011, the number of people using the Salvation Army food bank in Vernon climbed 87 per cent, while demand at food banks across the country rose 28 per cent during the same period.
“It’s hard to imagine,” said David MacBain, the Salvation Army’s community ministries director.
“We are significantly higher than the national average.”
In March 2008, the local agency assisted 600 people while that climbed to 1,100 in March 2011.
“That doesn’t include the people who come in and get bread from us every day,” said MacBain.
Nationally, 38 per cent of those helped by food banks are children under 18 years old while it is 30 per cent in Vernon.
“When we’re talking 1,000 people in total, that (30 per cent) is a lot of kids affected,” said MacBain.
Eleven per cent of the local households seeking help are living on income from current or recent employment.
While the client base is up significantly from 2008, it is virtually unchanged from 2010, but MacBain says the large number of people walking through the door continues to strain resources.
The recession is partially to blame for steady demand, but it’s not the primary reason.
“The root of most of it is low income,” said MacBain.
“People are working when it’s a $8.50 or $9 an hour job, you need more than one to make ends meet.”
A complicating factor is the high cost of housing.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation states the average rent for a bachelor suite in Vernon was $514 this spring (down from $524 in April 2010), while it was $781 (down from $787) for a two-bedroom apartment and $809 (down from $840) for a three-bedroom unit.
MacBain says he knows of a woman who is getting $616 a month on social assistance and her rent is $500, not leaving her much left to buy food.
“She’s looking for alternate housing,” he said.
MacBain hopes the public will continue to think of those in need and provide donations to North Okanagan food banks.
“We definitely need the same support as last year,” he said.
On Nov. 20, Silver Star Mountain Resort will be donating $20 to the Salvation Army for all-day passes for opening weekend. North Okanagan realtors will hold a food drive Dec. 7.