Winnipeg Harvest desperate to fill bare cupboards

Winnipeg Harvest, Manitoba’s biggest food bank, says they are struggling to fill nearly empty shelves at their two warehouses.

Facing a critical shortage, food bank asks for donations of non-perishable items

With supplies dwindling, Winnipeg Harvest is asking for increased donations to help fill the gap they often encounter at this time of year. (Google Street View)

Manitoba's biggest food bank says they are struggling to fill nearly empty shelves at their two warehouses.

Facing a critical food shortage, Winnipeg Harvest put the call out Monday for Manitobans to donate food items to feed some of Manitoba's most vulnerable people. Many children, families, and the elderly rely on food banks to put food on the table every day.

Grace Weigelt, Winnipeg Harvest's director of client services and agencies, told CBC her not-for-profit organization typically suffers from dwindling donations at this time of year, as many people turn their focus to end of the school year chaos and summer holidays.

"Our shelves become a bit bare," she said.

The food bank provides nourishment for about 64,000 individuals – 42 per cent of whom are children, according to internal data compiled by the organization. Winnipeg Harvest says it distributed 13.2 million pounds of food last year.

"We're just asking folks that if they're able to help out and support, that they do," Weigelt said.

Food costs 'skyrocketing'

Bernie Krahn has relied on food banks to feed his household for almost a decade. He looks for carbohydrates and proteins, which can be particularly expensive to buy at the store.

"The biggest problem I'm finding is that the cost of food is skyrocketing like crazy," Krahn said.

Krahn spoke about the social stigma he experienced the first time he dropped in.

"I found it very hard," he said about his initial visits to food banks, after his legs gave out. The former trucker suffers from diabetes and extreme leg pain as a result of more than 15 years of driving big rigs.

Krahn visits the Ness Baptiste Church's food bank every second Saturday in the city's St. James area. Most of the church's food donations come from Winnipeg Harvest.

Brennan Cattani, who works as a pastor at the church, said Manitobans might be surprised how many people need this type of service.

"This is very dear to our hearts," Cattani said. 

"If people don't have food in their cupboards and in their stomachs, then some of those other services don't seem to be quite as important."

Food banks across the city and province saw 58 per cent more usage over the past decade. Winnipeg Harvest attributes the boost to economic hurdles in front of singles and families, such as the rising cost of living and a lack of affordable housing for low-income families.

Weigelt said more and more food bank clients are stuck dipping into their food budgets to cover other basic life necessities, like paying to put a roof over their head.

Winnipeg Harvest is asking for donations of non-perishable food items, such as rice, pasta, canned meats and beans, and canned fruits and vegetables. Weigelt asks people to drop donations off at their local grocery store food bank bin or directly to Winnipeg Harvest to ensure speedy turnaround times.