Airdrie Food Bank usage continues to rise

Staff at the Airdrie Food Bank say they've seen a recent increase in people accessing their Bread and Extras drop-in program.

Number of people using the Bread and Extras program has grown dramatically

Volunteers at the Airdrie Food Bank work to create hampers. Usage of the Bread and Extras drop-in program has increased in recent months. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Staff at the Airdrie Food Bank say they've seen a recent increase in people accessing their Bread and Extras drop-in program.

Sue Methuen, executive assistant at the food bank, says they've seen about 1,000 additional people coming in for supplies like bread, milk and produce since late last year, and that trend could be connected to factors like rising rents and cuts to employment hours — and even the weather.

"With the economy over the last couple of years, our numbers have stayed high," she said.

"They're not going down and the drop-in program is increasing even more, and that's just supplementing people in between hampers, or if people don't want to come for a hamper … they can come any time for extra food."

Methuen adds they've even heard from some seasonal staff and construction workers who say they've lost work because of the late season snow.

The Bread and Extras program allows people to stop by the Airdrie Food Bank during regular business hours to pick up essentials like bread without having to first register.

The program is seen as an additional layer of support for clients.

Sue Methuen, executive assistant at the food bank, says they've seen about 1,000 additional people coming in for supplies like bread, milk and produce since late last year. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Hamper demand has also remained steady in recent months, says Metheun.

"There are just more expenses and just not enough money to cover groceries as well as all their expenses, so they're coming here for the extra help," she said.

Rising demand is something the Airdrie Food Bank has been struggling with in recent years.

In 2016, hours were extended to help meet additional demand and in November 2017, a record number of hampers — 265 — were handed out.

At the time, executive director Lori McRitchie said that since 2012, usage of the food bank has doubled, then doubled again.

The Bread and Extras drop-in program at the Airdrie Food Bank allows people to stop in for staple items, even without being registered. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Food bank staff say many of their clients are currently working full or part-time jobs and that nearly half of those receiving food are children.

Rhonda Samoleski says the food hamper and drop-in programs make a big difference for her family.

"It keeps me going every day, to send the kids to school, to provide meals for the family, so yeah, very helpful," she said.

Staff say they'll meet the increasing demand, but it all means contributions from volunteers and the community remain as important as ever.

With files from Dave Gilson