Employment, housing and newcomers all part take in sudden food bank rush

With the lack of affordable housing and a boost in population, the Calgary Food Bank feels the pressure to keep fridges full.

Keoma Duce, the Calgary Food Bank development coordinator for organizational giving, has been with the centre for four years, and says she’s never seen such a drastic influx of people in such a short period of time.

Since last year, Duce says there’s been a 10 per cent increase of individuals and families relying on the centre.

The 2014 Civic Census Results shows that Calgary is just touching 1.2 million residents – an increase of 38,508 Calgarians from 2013.

While there’s food available, due to the city’s surge of people, the number of Calgarians using the service has also increased as volunteers struggle to handle additional foot traffic.

“It’s a combination of expensive living, minimum wage and newcomers to Calgary that can eventually trickle down to us,” says Duce. “The issues lay in social policy where blips still need to be worked out.”

Duce points to what appears to be a lack of conversation amongst those who have an upper hand in the city.

According to the 2013 Annual Food Bank Report, one in five parents in Canada said they skipped meals to ensure there was enough food for their children.

Photo by Jordan Kroschinsky “There’s people talking, but we’re just waiting for something to happen,” says Duce.
“We would love to have a dialogue with the federal government.”

While encouraging conversation with all public bodies, Duce notes the additional 130 partnered organizations working hard to eliminate root causes of poverty.

Paisley Dressler, a two-year volunteer meal host from Inn From the Cold, says the centre has been working at 120 per cent capacity throughout the past year.

“We need to take a look at how many people are coming into the country, and review the available social programs we have to accommodate the numbers,” says Dressler.

The food bank supports Inn From the Cold, donating meals and needed supplies that other organizations are unable to donate to the centre.

“Calgary is known to be an accepting city, a hub of economic activity,” says Dressler. “It seems like the promise land and then sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way.”

In 1982, the Calgary food Bank began in a small church basement with four volunteers. They’re now a million dollar organization with more than 4,000 volunteers.

Photo courtesy of Calgary Food Bank Aside from employment changes, both Duce and Dressler see affordable housing as a huge player in families needing help from social programs.

The 2014 census numbers states the available housing units for occupancy decreased from 11,782 in 2013, to 9,315 in 2014.

The plummet in available housing has also affected Calgary rent costs.

The spring Rental Market Survey released June.11, by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation stated the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary is $1,247.

In addition to increased rental costs, social programs are still mindful of the 2013 Alberta floods, and understanding that its’ impacts are still prevalent.

“Vacancy rate is almost at zero, and with the flood, people are still in housing that they wouldn’t normally be in,” says Duce. “The cost of rent is astronomical, and it goes right back to social policy.”

Despite varying factors affecting the food bank, confidence is tightly bound within its’ team of volunteers and staff who show readiness for any hardship that comes their way.

How to Request a Hamper
 

To make a food hamper request, call 403.253.2055

Phone operators will then guide a confidential screening process, inquiring about income, utility bills and unexpected expenses that may have arose

Provide as much information as you can to the Food Bank team so they can guide you in the right direction, and offer additional programs that may be of help to your situation

Once your hamper is approved, you’ll be scheduled to pick it up on a set date and time

Three hampers can be requested in a 12 month period

There must be 30 days between each hamper request 

You may qualify for addtional hampers with a referral.

Retrieved from the Calgary Food Bank.

jkroschinsky@cjournal.ca