WESTLOCK – In the past two years, more people are using the Westlock Food Bank, says president Sharon Kennedy, while at the same time, donations are down which is a sign of the increased cost of living faced by everyone.
Kennedy keeps track of the yearly numbers and putting the need in perspective, she said that in 2020 they served 2,713 people, while in 2021 it rose to 3,102 and in 2022 it spiked at 4,220. In addition, in 2020 they provided 1,109 food hampers, 1,275 in 2021, and 1,666 in 2022.
The biggest jump in clients are children and seniors as in 2020, 698 kids and 286 seniors were helped, while the number rose to 773 children and 353 seniors last year.
In the first two weeks of 2023, Kennedy noted, “We have served 80 children and 210 people, and 70 food hampers went out the door.”
If that trend continues, that means this year the number could raise to 2,080 children or 5,760 people in total and 1,820 food hampers.
“We’re getting quite a few new clients, three or four each week,” she said.
And while people seeking help is up, Kennedy noted community support is down between 30 and 40 per cent.
“I understand,” Kennedy said. “Everyone is having a rough time these days. But the community is very supportive of the food bank. We can’t do what we do without that.”
The food bank is run entirely by 13 volunteers, each putting in several hours every week, much of it behind the scenes. On Mondays, they pick up groceries and other items and get ready for Tuesday when they hand out the items on the east side of Memorial Hall from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
Kennedy has been volunteering at the food bank for 15 years and has served as the president for the past 10, while Bertha Victoor and Elsie Nestorovich have both volunteered for the past 20 years, and Helen Renaud, who also serves as treasurer, has been helping out for 30 years.
A handout sheet to supporters extends “heartfelt thanks to the community groups, individuals and businesses in Westlock and the surrounding areas for their continued generous support this past year” and notes “the abundant donations in the form of groceries, fresh produce and food products and funds are so much appreciated and needed by our clients. We literally could not do this without you.”
Kennedy added that anyone wanting to donate items can drop them off at the food bank on Mondays, or to call her at 780-349-4404 if they want more info.