The Salvation Army Food Bank, like many of its users, has fallen on hard times.
Close to 100 hampers are now going out the door a week, a huge drop compared to this time last year.
More users means less stock, said the Salvation Army’s Karen Mallett, which means the organization has to dip into other program funds to stock the shelves.
But, admitted Mallett, even that isn’t enough to fill the food bank.
“The past couple of months have been extremely busy here. We went from about 15 to 20 every second day to doing about 25 to 30 food hampers a day,” Mallett said Thursday. “That’s depleted our stock really quickly.”
A walk through the food bank reveals little on the shelves — some canned vegetables, a few boxes of crackers, canned pasta sauce and bags of dried pasta.
The area where the food bank’s backup supplies are stored is almost empty except for a few cases of dried pasta.
Mallett said the community has been great to support the food bank, and there are businesses, farmers and organizations that regularly drop off donations, but the demand from those in need is close to exceeding the supply.
“We get cash donations from the community plus Food Banks Canada gives us money and the Upper Room in Charlottetown shares with us. We’ve had to dip into that. Over the last month, we’ve had to go out and actually purchase groceries,” said Mallett, adding, “But when you spent $1,300 and it is only going to last a few days, it is a lot.”
She said as soon as supplies are either donated or purchased they are packed in boxes for families in need and soon out the door.
The food bank is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m. Often, people are waiting outside the doors before it opens, said Mallett.
“When it is a single adult or a couple, they get a $90 box. Someone who has a family, they get a $105 box… and when we’re doing 25 to 30 boxes every day three times a week, that’s a lot.”
She noted that food bank supplies are also used for the Salvation Army’s soup kitchen on Pope Road, which, too, is seeing more people through its doors.
Mallett attributes the spike in usage to changes to employment insurance, the high cost of food, home heating fuel and electricity and the time of year, when many seasonal workers are now seeing their EI benefits run out.
“Even with the oil program this year, that went faster than before,” she added. “We had $40,000 from the government and we gave that away in two days.”
That’s why local businessman Roger Wells decided to help.
He recently held a fundraiser, splitting the proceeds from the event between three organizations, one being the Salvation Army Food Bank.
Thursday Wells dropped off several cases of food, including peanut butter and boxed pasta, two things that quickly fly from the shelves.
“I try to do this every year,” he said. “It’s just something I like to do. I love to do what I can when I can.”
Wells challenges other businesses, realtors and even individuals who can, to help.
“When I was a kid I remember being on this side and I said if I could ever… give back I would give back,” he added. “You will never know when you are going to be on this side so the more you give the more you get.”
When asked if there was a fear that the food bank could close if the supplies don’t meet the demand in the future, Mallett remained optimistic.
“We can’t let those people go without. We have to find it somehow. We need this,” she added. “When it comes down to it Prince County is very good to us.”