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St. Albert Food Bank struggles with spike in demand

The annual fall drive kicks off Saturday, Sept. 17
2007 Grant reduc's DR13
Suzan Krecsy, executive director of the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village, says the organization has seen a nearly 70-per-cent jump in demand from August 2021 to August 2022. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

One of St. Albert’s most important food bank drives happens in September.

School starts and monthly expenses increase with the purchase of school fees and supplies, new clothes, and additional groceries. 

Mortgages, rent, utilities, and bills must be paid. The only place to cut is the food budget. And with the Bank of Canada’s recent interest rate hikes to curb runaway inflation, it’s a difficult pill to swallow for Canadians already struggling with stalled wages and mounting credit card debt. 

From August 2021 to 2022, the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village witnessed a nearly 70-per-cent jump in demand. This past month, the food bank supplied 411 hampers compared to 243 in August of last year. And executive director Suzan Krecsy estimates the demand will continue to rise in the near future. 

“A lot of new folks say they used to be donors. It’s very challenging for them. They’re embarrassed and humbled. They never thought they’d be in this situation,” Krecsy said. “The folks who have never come here before are the ones struggling the most. They’ve never had to access the food bank before. They’re almost paralyzed. They don’t know what to do.” 

Designed to restock shelves for a few months, the food drive is scheduled to kick off Saturday, Sept. 17. The Church of the Latter-Day Saints as well as conscientious families and individuals have distributed close to 23,000 brown paper bags to local residences. 

“We need everything. This is one of the most important drives we’ve ever had. The increase in demand has been major in the last seven months. But St. Albert is not unique. Right now, Alberta is the most food insecure place in Canada.” 

Krecsy offers several reasons for the high demand. 

“People are seeing rent increases of $300 per month. A lot of folks we see are underemployed. They don’t get enough hours to make a living wage. One person I know works three jobs to get full-time hours. And landlords have to cover their increasing costs — electricity, mortgage, insurance.” 

She said it is difficult to predict where food insecurity is heading, however notes there is no quick fix. 

“Some people in the food bank industry are looking at a five-year recovery. But I’m a bit more optimistic,” said Krecsy. “Sometimes I feel as if we don’t have enough resources to help everyone. What comforts me is that we partner with so many people and we’re not doing it alone.” 

For the Saturday food drive, people are asked to fill the paper bags with non-perishables and leave them on their porch before 9 a.m. Red Willow Community Church, a food bank partner for 37 years, has organized a city-wide pickup and will deliver all donations to the food bank. 

“And if you didn’t get a bag, please put out any sort of bag and it will be picked up,” said Krecsy.

Anyone wishing to donate funds can reach the food bank at 780-459-0599 or visit 50 Bellerose Dr. on Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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