Food banks across Saskatchewan continue to feed more people than ever

If the rising number of users at the province's food banks is any indication, people who work in resource sectors are feeling the financial strain.

Food bank workers attribute rising numbers to job layoffs

Demand for the food bank increases during economic downturns. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

If the rising number of users at the province's food banks is any indication, people who earn their livings in oil- and resource-based jobs are feeling the effects of a slumping economy and wide-spread layoffs. 

Saskatchewan Weekend host Eric Anderson spoke with several food bank workers throughout the province to get a sense of where each center's numbers are at.

The overall consensus is that food banks are seeing the fallout first-hand of a fledgling resource-based economy in the province.

Weyburn: Teen wishes for more food for his family on Christmas

As per usual, the food bank in Weyburn is keeping busy this year, much like 2014 when it supported 40 families and 30 single people, according to Jennifer Lorinczy, who works with the town's Salvation Army.

"This year, we're over 50 families and 40 single people," Lorinczy said.

The numbers are a little higher than previous years, she said.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the economy right now, especially in Weyburn. We are an oil field town. With oil not running up to par, it kind of affects everybody."

One heartbreaking story Lorinczy shared is that of a teenager whose family is using the food bank. He said all he wanted for Christmas is more food for his family, according to Lorinczy.

Moosomin: Demand for food hampers increasing

The town has had a food bank for eight years and they're finding now that food basket hampers are in high demand.

Bernice Holman is a board member of the Moosomin Food Bank. She said that by this time of year, "We have 40 people that have signed up for a food Christmas hamper. On the average, we usually have at least 30 that come every month, and it's been growing by at least one family a month."

Holman said that increase has been evident for "the past six months." She attributed the increase to layoffs and job losses in the oil industry.

The Saskatoon food bank says there are about 4,100 people receiving food baskets per week. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Moose Jaw: Credit cards can be used to donate

Deanne Little is the assistant manager of the Moose Jaw Food Bank. She wants to get the word out that the food bank is now accepting donations by credit card. She said that for the longest time the only way to donate was by cash or cheque.

As for sorting, she said volunteers can now sort through about 1,000 pounds of food per day.

Little said this year has been keeping them busier than in years past.

Swift Current: Volunteers working non-stop sorting food

Maj. Don Grad is with the city's Salvation Army. He explained how two October food drives left him and his fellow volunteers with 20,000 pounds of non-perishable food, all of which had to be sorted for food hampers at the city's food bank.

"For the last month and a half, they have just been working many, many hours to sort all this stuff into categories and then into boxes," Grad said. "I don't know how many hours that would be, but you consider that we got three or four volunteers, and they've been working three or five days a week.

"We'll be packing 250 hampers. That in itself is going to be an all-day job tomorrow," he said. 

Meadow Lake: Food hamper demand doubles

Eunita Esca, executive director of the Meadow Lake Door of Hope Food Bank, said she's seen that number of users at the food bank jump this year, compared with previous years.

"We are not sure why that is," she said, noting that the organization delivers food hampers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

This past Monday, the group delivered "23 or 24 food hampers," whereas normally they'd be delivering between 10 to 12.

"We are actually seeing more people who are getting food bank referrals now."

Yorkton: Some people just need to talk

Rosanne Fraiser with the Yorkton Salvation Army said they are currently serving about 100 families per month.

"That's not just people coming in for assistance for a hamper. It's everything from Christmas to day-to-day functions," she said. "Some of them just need to come in and talk. And for some of them, it's just having a listening ear for those that need someone to talk to."

This year in particular, she said, the food bank has seen a lot more people seeking support.

The bin of whole grain cereals collected at the food bank in Saskatoon. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Prince Albert: 883 hampers given out in November

Wes Clark, the executive director of the Prince Albert Food Bank, said they gave out 883 hampers last month, "Which is quite high for us. That reaches about 3,000 people-plus. And we're a community of 35,000."

It makes the work "incredibly difficult," in all senses, Clark said.

"With those kind of numbers, we're packed for our hamper hours. And our shelves deplete as quick as we can fill them.

"I think we're seeing a demographic shift," he said. "We've always had a broad spectrum of people coming for receiving help. But now we're seeing a lot more people due to the oil fields. We're seeing a lot more people that had better jobs, that are falling on hard times."

La Ronge: Second busiest day ever early this week

Trudy Connor has seen much of the same in La Ronge, where she's the secretary for the Lac La Ronge Food Bank. 

"Just this past Tuesday, we had our second-biggest day, ever," Connor said. The food bank has been running for nine years. "We're very busy, and November was our biggest month ever."

On Tuesday, Dec. 8 Connor said 67 hampers went out, which was enough food for 272 individuals to have food for a couple of days.

Connor attributed the large number to high rent in La Ronge, along with families looking to buy gifts for their kids.

She also thought this summer's wildfires had an affect on business owners in the area, likely making owners' recovery process more financially burdensome.


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