Nfld. & Labrador

50-year-old soup? Donations down, demand up — but don't donate old goods to food bank

Donations are down and demand is way up at the food bank that serves the Conception Bay South and Paradise area this year.

After a 78 per cent increase in 2015, demand surges 40-45 per cent this year

Soup is a popular item to donate to food banks, but check the best-before date. (CBC)

While demand is high for food banks around Newfoundland and Labrador at this time of year, at least one group is asking the public to stop donating expired food.

Fay Dawe, co-ordinator for the Conception Bay South/Paradise food bank, has seen more than a healthy dose of relics during her 11 years of accepting donations.

Some people, they just think if you're hungry enough you'd eat anything.- Fay Dawe

Highlights — or lowlights — include a 50-year-old can of Campbell's Soup — with a vintage logo she recognized from her childhood — and a can of cream so old, Central Dairies took it back to its headquarters to display on a shelf.

"They just think they're doing it out of the goodness of their heart, which is fine," Dawe said of the donors.

"We just bring it in and we sort it and make the decision if the can is any good or not."

Fay Dawe says she's seen some relics donated to the food back in her 11 years there. (CBC)

Dawe is also reminding people not to bring in opened goods, or food that has been frozen and thawed.

"Some people, they just think if you're hungry enough you'd eat anything," she said. "If you wouldn't feed it to your own, don't feed it to nobody else's."

Donations down, demand up drastically

Peter Wells, chair of the Conception Bay South/Paradise Community Food Bank, said the demand is becoming overwhelming, and is up higher than the significant increase they saw last year.

"Our demand is up this year anywhere around 40, 45 per cent or more," Wells told CBC News.

"From March [2015] to March [2016] we actually had a 78 per cent increase and now we're having another 40 per cent increase."

The food bank's shelves should be overflowing at this time of the year, but donations are down while demand is rising. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Wells said the food bank is seeing bigger numbers looking for help and a wider variety of people, including more seniors and people returning from Alberta.

He blames the double-whammy of a struggling economy and increased taxes and fees instituted by the provincial government in its spring budget.

Volunteers working at the Conception Bay South/Paradise Community Food Bank are usually squeezing around an overflowing storeroom prior to Christmas. This year, though, donations are down while demand is through the roof. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

"Since the government cut back on medical for seniors, we're seeing more seniors than ever," he said.

"We are getting people who are coming back from Fort Mac, their EI has run out and they have nowhere to go. They've sold off everything they own and they're coming home and they are going to social services and they are coming here for assistance."

Since the [province] cut back on medical for seniors, we're seeing more seniors than ever.- Peter Wells, food bank chair

He says the same forces that are driving the demand are also suppressing donations.

Glancing around the storeroom at its space in Manuels, Wells says, "This time last year, you couldn't move in here for the food that came in. This year we're way down. We're probably down 50 per cent from last year."

"The monetary donations are down from last year dramatically."

Wells said there is one bright spot. 

"Fortunately, for the Christmas hampers, the Rotary, Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce is kicking in and they are providing everything for that."

Chair Peter Wells says demand is way up due to an economic downturn and increased provincial taxes and fees. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Wells said the food bank has been soliciting churches and businesses for more donations and that has been yielding some results, but they often draw on the same donors who already contribute.

The food bank will manage through the upcoming holiday season, he said, but unless donations increase, its shelves could be empty by the time February rolls around.

This donated box of rice has a best before date of September 2013, and while the food bank needs items, not ones this old. (CBC)

With files from Carolyn Stokes