There has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of Canadians turning to food banks this year compared to last — a number that’s even higher in some Lower Mainland communities.
The Friends In Need Food Bank in Maple Ridge and Salvation Army Family Services in Chilliwack have both reported a 30 per cent increase in the number of clients visiting their food banks since Christmas.
Representatives for the organizations said the economic downturn and an increase in unemployment is driving up the numbers.
“(We have) a lot of EI clients coming in — people who have never come here before,” said Tiffany Parton, executive director of Friends In Need. “We’re coping,” she said. “The need is consistent year-round. People sometimes forget about (that) in the summer.”
Tim Bohr, communications co-ordinator with the Chilliwack Salvation Army, said he’s not sure how much longer the food bank there will be able to meet the increased demand. “Should this trend continue, and we project it will, we’ll be in trouble by the end of the summer,” Bohr said.
Marilynn Hermann, executive director of the Surrey Food Bank — which has seen a 13 per cent increase in clients — said when EI and unemployment rates go up, so does the need for food banks.
“When we open our doors at 9:30 in the morning, we have 70 families lined up already,” she said.