COLUMN: 2018 second-largest on record for food bank

Boundary Community Food Bank added 109 new clients last year

Deb Billwiller

Hunger matters, and when it comes to matters of hunger, the issue is far further reaching than most people suspect. Sometimes, it’s a lifelong issue related to poverty; other times, it’s directly related to a health or environmental issue that causes a shorter period of needing help.

Last month, Food Banks Canada released the results of their 2018 Hunger Count and the numbers are staggering. Hunger Count is a snapshot of food bank usage across the country in March. In this, one of the richest nations in the world, over a million households utilized their local food bank in March. In B.C., that number is over 126,000 and locally, the Boundary Community Food Bank provided a Choice Matters – Self Select hamper for 194 households. Remember, this was last March, before the flood that devastated our community. January and February of this year have both seen us providing assistance to well over 200 households. We’ve also opened files for 18 households in each of those months, more than double the new files for the same period last year.

2018 was our second largest year in terms of the number of new client files started: 109 (68 singles; 20 two-person households; 21 families of three or more people.) It seems like that should make our monthly stats considerably higher, but there are two things that come into play to negate that. First of all, not all of our clients come every month. Some have seasonal work, some have large gardens that keep them fed during the summer and early fall, some only come in the months with high power and/or gas bills.

The other big factor is our annual client file cull.

Every year, in early January we look at every client file. If their last visit was the previous year, they remain in the files, if it was the year before that, their file is moved to our inactive files. Any client files that stay in the inactive file for a full year are then shredded. When I did the cull in January, there were approximately 117 households whose last hamper was in 2016 and which were destroyed. There were a further 102 households who last received a hamper in 2017 and who were moved to the inactives.

Look deeper into those numbers and it’s very interesting. Remember I said we added 68 singles, 20 two-person households and 21 families. We moved to inactive 68 singles, 13 two-person households and 21 families. So we ended the year with exactly the same number of singles and families as we started last year with. If you’ve ever thought that once someone starts coming to the food bank they’ll never leave, you can be assured that that is not the case.

You might ask how we manage to provide three to five days of food each month for more than 400 people from across the Boundary. We do it with the generous donations of the stores, farms, businesses, organizations and residents of our great community. We also do it with an average 490 hours of volunteer time each month.

If you would like to join our awesome team of compassionate, enthusiastic people, please leave a message at 250-442-2800 or email boundaryfoodbank@gmail.com. It’s incredibly rewarding and you can help make a difference. Because we all know hunger matters.

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