Coronavirus: Food banks in Okanagan see increase in demand and decrease in donations

It’s a sign of the times: at food banks in the Central Okanagan, the shelves are emptying faster than they can be refilled.

The Salvation Army in Kelowna says it’s desperately low on meat, bread, toilet paper and other necessities as clients increase and donations decrease.

“Key items like proteins, meats and things along those lines things that are staple items that we would have an abundance of coming in on a daily basis, we hardly have anything left,” said Darryl Burry, executive director and lead pastor of the Kelowna Salvation Army.

“We have a significant population here in our community that struggle to put food on the table on a regular basis and during these times it makes those needs increase all the more.”

When many families are facing uncertainty and feel the need to stockpile food, the food banks are the ones who feel it the most. Shelves and fridges that are normally filled with food are emptying and right now, it’s a more crucial time than ever to donate.

At the Lake Country Food Bank, they have been getting some food donations from restaurants forced to close. But it’s not enough to keep the shelves fully stocked to fill hampers for those in need.

“Donations are lower and that’s because there are more purchases in the store so we are not getting the volume that we were before with food recovery. Many of the people that gave to us and were very generous with what they gave may now be in a situation where they are not able to give,” said Joy Haxton, Lake Country Food Bank. 

As the food banks’ phone lines ring off the hook with clients looking to schedule a time to pick up a hamper, staff only ask for one thing.

“The thing that we are asking for is patience: just give us time to respond, we will respond,” said Haxton.

As demand increases, the Central Okanagan Food Bank says that the best way to help out is through monetary donations as they have a buying power of three to one, meaning every dollar they spend is multiplied by three in stores.

“Every day there are more and more people who are touching base with us who have never touched base with us before,” said Tammie Watson, chief development officer, Central Okanagan Foodbank. 

“The more restaurants that are closing down, the more businesses that are closing down, the more our phones are ringing.”

For more information on how to help your local food bank, visit their website.

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