Regina Food Bank anticipating more demand and use but less supply and donations because of COVID-19

The Regina Food Bank's CEO is anticipating fewer donations and an increased demand in use as COVID-19 arrives in Saskatchewan.

Warehouse has 3 to 4 weeks worth of dry food supply, according to CEO

Food bank donations are expected to slow down and food bank use is expected to rise because of COVID-19. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

The Regina Food Bank is taking measures to protect against COVID-19, such as upping cleaning measures and starting to look at ways to reduce close interactions with the people they serve.

John Bailey, CEO of the food bank, says that shutting down the food bank could do more harm than good.

"If we sort of shut down or reduce hours or anything like that we're quite literally taking food out of people's hands" Bailey said.

"The people we serve are sort of least able to social distance because they don't have the capacity to stock up for a month or to self isolate and do all that kind of stuff just because of the nature of where they're at".

Food bank dependence could rise

Bailey anticipates the demand for food bank services will rise in the coming months.

"If we had to guess — based on what we sort of see trend-wise across the world — we're going to see more people needing access to food, not less".

As people stay home more often, and large gatherings are postponed or cancelled, Bailey also anticipates that donations will start to slow down.

"We're going to get hit just on the public donation side because a lot of times big chunks of food come through school drives or a food bank drop off as part of another gathering or event," Bailey said.

Bailey, however, says he doesn't see panic buying and bare shelves in grocery stores as a big issue, just yet.

Warehouse is sitting in good supply

The food bank is sitting in a fairly stocked position as of now. Bailey says they have been building up a good supply

"Right now, in terms of dry goods we're not looking to be in sort of a place of scarcity," he said but he does acknowledge that things can change quickly.

"If everything was to stop tomorrow, we have sort of three to four weeks worth of supply, which is not a huge cushion but it also doesn't mean we're day-to-day on it."

Food bank expects financial hit

In terms of finances, Bailey says the food bank is preparing to take a loss

"We're in the midst of presenting a budget and we're already taking out, just on contingency, 10 to 15 percent of revenue just not knowing what the impact on fundraising events and individual appeals and all that kind of stuff are going to be."

As the shopping continues, Bailey is encouraging people to think of the food bank and shelters in the city.

He says that some people just can't afford social distancing.

"Even if we find ourselves in a situation like Italy and Spain where [isolation is] people who experience homelessness or who are experiencing food insecurity aren't going to have that luxury."