Sheila Briere and Darren Toth volunteer at the Lakes District Food Bank on Nov. 28. The food bank is struggling because financial donations are down by 40 per cent.

Food bank struggling to survive

The Lakes District Food Bank faces a reduction of 40 per cent in financial donations.

After hundreds of people lost their jobs due to the explosion at Babine Forest Products sawmill in 2012, the Lakes District Food Bank saw a significant increase in clients. Fortunately, at that time, the new clients were followed by a significant increase in donations.

Once the situation stabilized and workers started regaining their jobs, the donations to the food bank reduced drastically.

“People thought we were in great shape when we thanked them,” said Candice Little, coordinator of Lakes District Family Enhancement Society. “But we are still alive and we’re still trying to feed a lot of hungry people.”

Although the donation of non-perishable food items has remained steady, the amount of money donated was reduced by 40 per cent in the 2013/2014 financial year, said Little. To make matters worse, the food bank has seen an increase of 10 per cent in the number of clients during the same period.

The food bank spends an average of $6000 to $7000 every two weeks purchasing perishable items such as vegetables, fruits, bread and eggs.

Little said the food bank has already made some cuts such as eliminating “pudding, snack food for kids’ lunches, cookies, and food with lower nutritional value” from the food boxes.

The organization operates partially on funds from a provincial gaming grant, but according to Little, the funds are “limited.”

“That money only goes so far,” she said.

Winter can also create a different set of challenges for the less advantaged families since they are not fishing, hunting or cultivating gardens during that time.

“It’s harder for people to sustain themselves during winter,” said Little.

As an attempt to improve the situation of the food bank, the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society has started a campaign called Holiday Spirit Funding Drive. The campaign is seeking to raise the profile of the food bank, and raise awareness to the fact that the food bank still needs the public’s help.

“During Christmas time we typically think of the rest of the world and the people who are less fortunate than ourselves, but we forget to look at our own community,” said Little.

From April 2013 to March 2014, the food bank was able to distribute 1640 food boxes to disadvantaged children and families in the community, helping to feed an average of 161 adults and 81 children.

“We only feed them twice a month, but some of these people are hungry every day,” said Little.

The Holiday Spirit Funding Drive campaign will run until Dec. 15, 2014, but the food bank accepts donations all year round.

Donations to the Lakes District Food Bank can be dropped off at Lakes Artisan Centre, Bulkley Valley Credit Union, Woods ‘n Water, College of New Caledonia, Burns Lake Chamber of Commerce and Village Insurance.

Donations can also be mailed to BOX 777, Burns Lake, B.C. V0J1E0. For more information, contact Candice Little at 250-692-9601.