As you would expect, the needs of the community are only increasing as the cost of everyday essentials continues to rise.
The Chemainus Harvest House Food Bank’s volunteers are diligently maintaining their role of meeting the growing demand for food.
“The food bank is helping a lot of families just trying to put food on the table,” explained outgoing Harvest House coordinator Dorothy Sandford. “It’s a hard time for people right now. With gas prices going up we will likely see more increases in the cost of food.”
Skyrocketing food prices since the start of the year have resulted in the number of people relying on the food bank going way up accordingly. Sandford noted in March food was contributed to people 663 times compared to 493 the previous March.
“That’s up 30 per cent from last year,” she noted. “We’ve got new people signing up every week and more seniors and it’s hard on them. A lot of them are on fixed incomes.
“If the community would like to help, giving what they can to the 49th Parallel Grocery Store will help with a credit that allows the food bank to purchase what we are needing. Anything the community can do would be great, but I know it’s tough for everyone. Everybody’s feeling the pinch, it’s just not people who are on fixed incomes.”
Because of the cost of meat, Sandford added, donations of canned protein will be a great help to people.
The food bags available from the 49th provide constant help feeding healthy items to food bank participants. Those donations have slipped slightly in recent months from 25-30 bags a week to 17 in one example.
“That’s just the way it is right now,” Sandford conceded.
The food bank has also been filling requirements above and beyond the norm due to the current housing and affordability crisis.
“Recently, we have been giving out many emergency bags to homeless people living in the community or people passing through,” Sandford indicated. “It’s a sad reality for people priced out of the rental market and the unavailability of rental accommodation.“
Between the food bank and Cowichan Neighbourhood House, the service for Chemainus and the neighbouring islands is way better than many communities.
“I’m really glad we have a food bank here,” stressed Sandford. “Some communities don’t have one.”
The organization is always looking for more volunteers and interested persons can attend at the Chemainus United Church basement on Thursday mornings if they have some time to spare.
Sandford’s term as coordinator finishes at the end of May, with Emily Holmes taking over as of June 1.
“I’m training her and I started at the beginning of the month,” said Sandford. “She’s been in the community her whole life.”
Holmes also has connections with Neighbourhood House and Sandford has no doubt she’ll do a great job in the food bank role.
“I’ll still be helping out whenever they need me down there,” noted Sandford, who’s lived in Chemainus for about nine years and will be leaving in August. “I’m going to really miss Chemainus.”
She’ll first spend some time with one of her sons and grandchildren in Sooke before heading to Montreal where another son lives at the end of September. Sandford also has sons in Victoria and Australia.