As the Christmas season approaches, it marks the busiest time of the year for local food banks, including the food bank at the Bonnyville Native Friendship Centre.
Recent figures from Food Bank Canada’s Hunger Count showed that 45 per cent of Albertan food banks are seeing an increased usage from 2018-19, and the numbers are projected to rise in Bonnyville as well.
“The stats for Alberta are kind of…it’s depressing,” said Pauline Mawer, assistant executive director of the Friendship Centre.
“More people are going to the food bank. More people, more single parents, more seniors. I see that. I wish the economy would pick up. I’ve got clients that are barely making it from month-to-month and as the Christmas season approaches, the holiday season, December in January are usually our highest for numbers,” she said.
In December 2018 the food bank saw 279 appointments, the highest for the year for a total of 2,552.
January of this year saw 265 clients.
“In October, I had 68 new clients. And so far, my number is at 1500. But I know November, December to the end of the year, that’s probably going to double. It’ll be more than last year because the need is just so great,” said Mawer.
Donations are coming in steadily, but Mawer said it’s always a quick turnover.
“People are hurting. People are looking for jobs. Single parents are struggling. And that breaks my heart. I’ve got seniors who cannot afford to live on their pension and that’s just sad. Poverty. And homelessness is a real thing in Bonnyville because I have many homeless clients as well.
“When I say homeless, I mean they’re not necessarily sleeping on the street, but they’re the ones that are going from house to house. Just couch surfing, staying wherever they can put keep warm. And that is getting worse,” she said.
Mawer says at the moment the food bank needs reusable bags because many clients do not have a vehicle.
You can call 780-826-3374 to book an appointment. The food bank is open Monday-Wednesday from 9:00am-11:00am and then 1:00pm-3:00pm.
“It’s easy to get in. I mean, people think it’s hard. And it’s not. It’s an easy process.”