Western Manitoba soup kitchen stretched thin

Demand is up and challenges are mounting for Brandon's Helping Hands Soup Kitchen

Brandon non-profit Helping Hands Soup Kitchen facing challenges feeding needy

Demand is up and challenges are mounting for the Helping Hands Soup Kitchen in Brandon, the only soup kitchen in western Manitoba. 2:11

Demand is up and challenges are mounting for Brandon's Helping Hands Soup Kitchen.

Representatives from Western Manitoba's lone soup kitchen said the amount of people using their resources has been on the rise.

"I moved to Brandon about two and a half years ago from up north from the Onanole area ... fell into some hard times," said George Tinker, volunteer at Helping Hands Soup Kitchen.

Tinker lost his job, suffers from depression and his disability cheques aren't enough.

"Turned out, in a couple of days I met a lot of other people that were in the same position as I was," said Tinker.

Line-ups long, growing

"The numbers are increasing," said Vandana Jamadagni, head of kitchen operations at Helping Hands.

Vandana Jamadagni, co-ordinator for the Helping Hands soup kitchen, stands at the site of Brandon's new shelter. (Jillian Coubrough/CBC)
According to Jamadagni, last year the soup kitchen would serve 130 people a day. But in 2014, they're seeing 160-170 people per day.

"There are new faces, sometimes immigrant faces and lots of children, small children," said Jamadagni.

Jamadagni said it's difficult to pin point what might be behind the upswing, but the rising cost of living in Western Manitoba plays a role.

"The grocery bills and the rent: the rent is really pushing Brandonites to, more and more, depend upon the hamper program and the meal program," said Jamadagni.

Donations down, costs up

Food donations are currently down, which means what little food is coming in must be stretched that much further.

“Whatever we have a little bit of in stock, we're trying to make it last," said Jamadagni. "Every day we have to be more creative."

On top of everything else, operating costs are up.

Helping Hands used to share the 20-thousand square foot building with a food bank, and the costs were split 50/50.

The food bank moved locations, however, so Helping Hands has been left to pay the entire $3,500 in building utilities each month until a new tenant is secured.

Jamadagni is concerned they won’t have adequate resources at their disposal for when schools let out for summer.

She anticipates upwards of 50-60 children will be accessing Helping Hands on a regular basis over the summer break.  

"I really request the Brandon community to help and support us," said Jamadgni.

Helping Hands is a non-profit organization located in Brandon that formed in 1990. The centre relies on grant money, donations and volunteer support.