The results have finally been tabulated from September’s annual food drive to support the St. Albert Food Bank. Suzan Krecsy, the organization’s executive director, said that it was a bona fide success with approximately 24,312 kilograms of food brought in.
This bests the organization’s goal of 23,000 kilos and is about the same as what was brought in during each of the food drives of 2011 and 2010.
“It keeps us going,” Krecsy said, praising the generosity of St. Albert before offering a somber note about the intake.
“It doesn’t take long to get rid of it. That’s actually two months’ worth of food,” she said.
“When we’re looking at the hunger count report, there’s 13 per cent of the food banks had to close because they didn’t have enough food. We never have that trouble. We never have to worry about that because St. Albert always takes good care of us.”
The report, released on Tuesday and available from Food Banks Canada’s website (at www.foodbankscanada.ca), takes a snapshot of food bank usage across the country every year in March.
That month saw 882,188 people across the country rely on community food banks to put food on the table. That number represents an increase of 2.4 per cent from 2011 and is 31 per cent higher than in 2008 before the recession struck.
Krecsy said that the overall numbers had decreased in Alberta. St. Albert often sees fluctuations throughout the year but 2012 was the same as 2011, as far as the report goes. After March there was a decrease of 20 families but that was reversed sharply in the last few months, she said.
“The unsettling part was, over the summer, we took on 60 new families that had never seen service before. In September we had 23 new families and in October we had 15 new families.”
Most of these people are employed and do make a living wage but the cost of living varies from province to province.
“Having a job in Alberta does not necessarily mean you’re out of poverty. It’s not a ticket out,” she said.
She added that this province is one out of only three in the country that doesn’t have a standardized poverty reduction strategy.
That’s why the food drive is so important in her mind. She offered specific thanks to the Red Willow Community Church, the local Lions Club, Mission: Fun & Games, the schools and all the volunteers who helped collect and sort the food.
Krecsy also reported that renovations are nearing completion on the second floor of the community village side of the food bank operations. The work has been ongoing for several months, with a full floor installed to add approximately 180 square metres of functional space for services, storage and programming.
“Our rental assistance co-ordinator will be up there. The volunteer co-ordinator will be up there,” Krecsy said. “We’ll have storage space that can be converted into two offices if need be down the road. We’ve got a wellness room.”
This room will allow her and community liaison worker Fay Lucy the space to offer yoga, massages and integrative restoration (or I-Rest) therapy, among others. Krecsy said her clients often have such a wide array of issues that they require help with, resulting in higher stress loads that usually hinder their progress toward self-reliance.
“Sometimes they’re so overwhelmed and they don’t know how to calm themselves. These are all tools that Fay actually teaches them in the NOW program,” she explained, referring to the four to five week course called Nurturing Opportunities of Wellness. “It’s self-esteem building and stress reduction.”
The new services will also bring the facility closer to the one-stop shop that Krecsy has always dreamed it would be. Some of the new space will be used for a community clinic with law students and other community workers where clients can receive help with filling out AISH papers and other documents and reports for social services.
“We’ve got some well-trained volunteers that have a career in psychology and they’ve retired so they’re going to come back and do things like that for us. Sometimes our clients just need someone to speak with.”
Even clients from St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families can access these services. Krecsy hopes that that agency might be able to send a counsellor over on a weekly basis to answer questions or offer support to clients of the food bank and community village.
She anticipates that the bulk of the rest of the work will be completed before the end of the month. This additional work will also entail the installation of a stairwell and elevator lift to the front of the building located at 50 Bellerose Dr. That last item, she added, probably won’t come until the spring.