With layoffs and wage losses, the number of Okanagan residents struggling to make ends meet has grown significantly.
And perhaps nowhere is that reality more evident than at the Central Okanagan Food Bank.
“There’s never been such a demand as it is right now, that we know of,” said Trevor Moss, executive director of the Central Okanagan Food Bank.
The food bank, which serves both Kelowna and West Kelowna, was founded in 1986 and has recently seen up to a 40 per cent increase in the number of households needing a helping hand.
“People are laid off and they are financially strapped,” Moss told Global News.
On Thursday alone, 114 households were booked to pick up food. Those households include 99 children.
“We feel for them, we feel for the community,” Moss said.
Chief development officer Tammie Watson said the phone has been ringing off the hook as people, many of them who have never used the food bank before, call for help.
“We have more and more people calling in who probably would have never thought in a million years that they would even pick up the phone to call us in the first place,” Watson said.
And the number of people reaching out for help is only expected to continue to rise.
“With the layoffs and when people get their last cheque, then all of a sudden we do anticipate the need is going to go up in the next two to three weeks,” Moss said. “That is a guarantee.”
But as the food bank prepares for even more clients in the days and weeks ahead, it is having to do so under challenging conditions.
“We have less volunteers than we’ve ever had in the past , we are thinly stretched with our staff right now,” Watson said. “They are long days, they are tiring.”
But the decrease in donations is also causing a lot of concern.
“We definitely have seen a decrease in donations, especially from a food perspective in reference to canned goods and non perishable items,” Moss said.
The food bank is urgently appealing to anyone who can help during this critical time.
“Some people are still working and some people have the financial means to actually do that, ” Moss said. “So we are encouraging them to donate what they can.”
Despite the challenges, the food bank has issued an important message for anyone struggling to make ends meet.
“If you are at all having to choose between paying your bills, paying your rent, or paying down your mortgage, please put your money towards those items, let us help you with your food if it is required,” Watson said. “You are not alone.”
Anyone needing assistance is asked to call the food bank to book an appointment.
Due to the increased volume, the organization will have an online registration system set up in the days to come.
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