Food bank usage has increased substantially in Airdrie and across the province over the last two years. Lori McRitchie, executive director of the Airdrie Food Bank (AFB), said she believes the increase is a direct result of Alberta’s current economic situation.
“I think that there’s a lot of people in our community who have lost their jobs or who have had their hours cut back,” McRitchie said. “We’ve certainly seen these kinds of things affect not just Airdrie but many, many communities in Alberta.”
Many people who are currently using the AFB used to donate to the food bank, she said.
“I don’t know how many times we hear, ‘I never thought I would have to come,’” she said. “They’re just not able to get by.”
According to a Food Banks Alberta press release, eight out of 10 provinces in Canada saw an increase in food bank usage this year and Alberta reached a new record number of clients.
Food bank usage has doubled in Alberta over the last two years and the Airdrie Food Bank has provided an average of 50 food hampers per week this year – an increase of 59 per cent from last year, according to the release.
McRitchie said she has been working at the AFB for 11 years and has never seen this kind of increase. The AFB has extended its hours to keep up with the demand.
“We just really try and accommodate the need,” she said. “I never thought we’d see the numbers that we’re seeing now and I mean it’s just going to go up.”
She said Christmas is the busiest time of year and the food bank usually receives more than two-thirds of its annual donations in November and December.
“We rely on the Christmas season to carry us all the way through the first half of next year,” McRitchie said. “We have a very, very strong community that really supports its neighbours so we have been able to support all who come our way.”
Approximately 160 volunteers run the AFB and McRitchie said they are always looking for more people to help out. Food donations and financial donations are also always welcomed.
Currently, the most needed items are beans, flour, sugar, rice, juice, spaghetti, peanut butter and canned pasta, fruit, tomatoes, vegetables, meat or fish. AFB volunteers are also collecting gingerbread houses to give to families in December.
McRitchie said they are in need of donations for the Fuel 4 Kids lunch program as well. The program currently runs in two local schools and AFB volunteers provide 100 lunches a week.
“We just don’t have the capacity or the funding to be able to grow that program yet – and yet there are many schools that need it,” McRitchie said.
The Airdrie Community Kitchen – which is located on the south side of the food bank – is running holiday cooking classes over the next few weeks, she added.
“We’re trying to bring the community together that way to build skills in people and to have them meet others so that they can have a stronger sense of community,” McRitchie said.
For more information, visit airdriefoodbank.com