B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

The first food bank I ever visited was one I went there to photograph. I was a first-year journalism student, armed with a borrowed Canon AE1, a fresh roll of TMax film, and a desire to get something “edgy.”

It was a tiny food bank, given the size of the city it served. But it was bustling. Behind the counter, volunteers scurried to fill and sort hampers. People patiently waited in line – their moods a mix of hope and apprehension.

The picture I came away with was of a middle-aged man, his one elbow propped on the countertop, his forehead cradled in his hand so his eyes were partly covered from my camera’s prying lens.

That photo has long since disappeared, but the memory has never faded.

ALSO READ: Dallas Smith, Terri Clark to perform on CP Holiday Train’s B.C. stops

As someone who grew up in the sheltered comfort of suburbia, I didn’t have a lot of experience with food banks. I hoped they were an aberration of the mid-’80s economic recession, but I was wrong.

Today, food banks are hardly a rarity. They can be found in every B.C. community – something that becomes even more obvious around Christmas time. Venture anywhere and you are reminded of the need to stock those shelves or offer financial support.

And the need is great.

In B.C., it is estimated 80,000 people rely on food banks every month, according to Food Banks BC.

Nationwide, that number grows to 1.1 million– one-third of them children, according to a study released by Food Banks Canada earlier this year.

So who are these people? Nearly half are people living alone, struggling to pay bills, afford rent and buy groceries. A growing number are seniors (11,000), people living with disabilities, or counting on social assistance.

Often food bank use is only temporary – a bridge to overcome an unexpected financial crisis, or to free up money for other priorities (like Christmas gifts for the kids).

Since the mid-’80, food bank use has grown, but it has also changed. Food programs now help feed hungry children at school, or educate their parents in community programs that show them how to prepare healthy and economical meals.

But the biggest change is the most innovative.

Once upon a time, canned goods and dried pasta dominated food bank shelves. The problem was storage. Food banks lacked the facilities to handle perishable products.

That began changing a few years ago with the launch of Food Bank BC’s “Perishable Food Recovery Program.”

With the help of a $10-million government grant, nearly 90 food banks in the province were retrofitted to provide refrigerator and freezer space to accommodate fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and foods rich in protein.

Then, through a partnership with major grocery chains, local farmers and other distributors, the program was able to divert food that would otherwise be thrown away.

The food is perfectly edible. It is simply approaching its best-before date, or doesn’t meet the aesthetic demands of fussy shoppers.

It is a classic win-win. More food (fresher and more nutritious) gets to those who need it, and less (an estimated $6-billion worth) goes into landfills.

Of course, food banks still need our support. And not just at Christmas time. Hunger and food insecurity might seem more obvious this time of year, but they are always present in our communities.

So, yes, make that donation. But remember, the need is there long after the decorations have been put away and the red kettle bells go silent.

Greg Knill is a columnist and former Black Press editor. Email him at greg.knill@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

The last forum before the election on Saturday focused on health care.
Boundary-Similkameen candidates talk health care over digital forum

The Support Our Health Care Society hosted the forum

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue were called out to a South Ruckle cabine where a homeless man had been using a portable stove to keep warm. Photo courtesy of Dep. Fire Chief Rich Piché
Firefighters discover man using a portable stove to keep warm inside South Ruckle cabin

Mayor Taylor said he was “ashamed” the city didn’t prepared an emergency shelter before Friday’s snow

Grand Forks’ Electric’s Sam Raybould eyes the powerline next to the Gazette’s office on 2nd St. Friday morning, Oct. 23. Crews were able to restore power by around noon. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Fallen branch knocks out power across much of Grand Forks

Power was knocked out by a fallen tree limb near City Park, said city official

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read