It’s the easiest way to make the most important difference to the people who need help the most.
Each household in the city should have received a brown paper grocery bag in the mailbox by now. On Saturday morning, homeowners are asked to put as many non-perishable food items in the bags as possible and put the bags back out on the front doorsteps by noon.
Done. Easy. Spend the rest of your weekend with a warm heart basking in the knowledge that you have helped the St. Albert Food Bank help hundreds upon hundreds of families to overcome their difficult financial circumstances and stay afloat during these tricky times.
This is the organization’s annual food drive, something that food bank executive director Suzan Krecsy last year called the most important food drive in its history. The overall downturn in the economy coupled with the chaos created out of the Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo fire brought the average number of families receiving assistance at the St. Albert Food Bank to 165 per month in 2016.
This year, that average is now at approximately 220 families each and every month, a rate that’s nearly double what it was only a few years ago. That works out to between 30,000 and 32,000 pounds of food going out every month.
The amount of donations coming in, however, is always a different story. Krecsy is optimistic though.
“We haven’t been doing badly. Lots of other food banks see such a huge drop in the summer but St. Albert takes care of us. We’ve had to adjust the amount of food we put into the hampers but not to the extent that other folks have had to.”
She noted that the St. Albert Farmers’ Market has offered an “incredible” boost by encouraging vendors to donate whatever produce doesn’t sell. The food bank has gained more than 2,000 lbs. of fresh vegetables and fruits so far this summer season.
“It’s incredible stuff.”
Of course, it’s also September, a time that means an increase in demand as kids go back to class and their parents’ budgets are burdened with new clothes and school supplies.
“This is a busy time. This is the uptick that we usually see. Over the past couple of years, of course, we’ve seen the increase in client usage because of the downturn in the economy. People may say that the recession is over but our families still haven’t been able to catch up. Lots of folks are working but they’re just not able to get out of that hole yet.”
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why she has adjusted her goal for the food drive too. She hopes for 65,000 pounds of donations this year, up more than eight per cent from last year’s goal.
She thinks it can happen. She’s seen the unwavering generosity of the city time and time again.
“I never have to ask really hard because St. Albert listens. We say ‘we need your help’ and that’s usually all we have to say. We don’t have to beg. People just respond so positively. We get lots of such great support from everybody.”