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Fewer donations mean food bank shelves could be bare by October — or sooner

The number of new clients and corresponding food hampers has grown recently, with seven to 10 new people coming almost every week to use the food bank's services.

The nursery rhyme about Old Mother Hubbard having bare cupboards could soon apply to the Moose Jaw and District Food Bank, as it faces more clients and fewer donations.

The number of new clients and corresponding food hampers has grown recently, with seven to 10 new people coming almost every week, said development manager Jason Moore. Furthermore, the organization is seeing a higher return of people who haven’t used the food bank’s services in a while. 

The intake process shows that many new clients are low-income singles and families who work and make about $30,000 a year, he continued. These people “were just kind of scraping by” before inflation hit groceries and gas. 

“They’re kind of left in that pickle: do (they) pay the bills or buy food? And that’s a really sad place to be. It’s unfortunate that working people are experiencing that,” Moore added.

The food bank expects families with young children to face difficulties this summer because kids won’t be receiving breakfast or lunch through school programs, he said. Furthermore, parents will be forced to pay more for daycare, putting further stress on household finances.

The pandemic has also made it difficult for the food bank to acquire donations through events, Moore continued. It couldn’t hold its Better Together Food Drive during the past two years, a fundraiser that brings in 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of food. 

“We are super blessed that the Better Together Food Drive is going to return this year, but until then, until October, we need to be able to provide the service to an increasing number of people,” he said.

“And when hamper prices (on the food bank’s end) are $50 for a single hamper or … $120 for a family hamper, that sure adds up quickly when you’re serving a thousand people a month. And sadly, almost half now are children.”

The food bank normally receives about 75 per cent of its fresh produce from community grocery stores, but it is starting to see a decrease in what stores provide. Moore noted that stores are struggling to keep their shelves full due to gas prices and freight challenges.

Meanwhile, the Mosaic Community Garden — and residents with gardens — usually helps the food bank by providing produce at the end of the summer. The food bank also relies on federal grants to purchase foodstuffs. 

“And so that definitely helps. But our food supply is running lower than past years. And our pantry could be bare before the Better Together Food Drive happens,” Moore said.

The food bank wants gardeners to grow an extra row of produce this year and donate that. The non-profit and Hunger in Moose Jaw will then deliver the food to Moose Jaw Housing complexes and seniors on fixed income. 

It’s difficult to ask residents for support since the whole community is struggling with increased living expenses, Moore continued. Moose Jaw has been “super generous” in the past with supporting the food bank, so the development manager is curious to see what happens this year.

The organization hasn’t resorted to extreme couponing yet, but it is looking at cost-cutting measures while still providing the same quantity of food and the same nutritional value. 

For example, the food bank is relying more on canned food. Moore noted that research shows canned foods retain their nutritional value longer than first thought. Furthermore, canned fruits and veggies are much cheaper than fresh produce.

“Things don’t look like they’re going to get better anytime soon, so we need to be mindful and good stewards of everything we have and still be able to provide the service we do to our community,” he added.

“But Moose Jaw has always been a generous city and our community always digs deep. And I think our community is willing to make personal sacrifices to help others. And so, we’re really counting on that this year.”