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Skyrocketing demand at Chilliwack Food Bank definitely a result of inflationary pressures

‘We are serving three times the number we saw last year,’ says food bank co-ordinator
Chilliwack Salvation Army food bank coordinator Don Armstrong. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The skyrocketing cost of food and housing is leading to longer than ever lineups at the food bank and soup kitchen run by Chilliwack Salvation Army.

On target to have fed more than 6,000 people in the month of October, they are definitely feeling the pinch of inflationary pressures.

“We are serving three times the number we saw last year,” said Don Armstrong, co-ordinator of the Chilliwack Food Bank at Salvation Army on Yale Road.

The count in September 2022 was 5,000 people served, and more this month, whereas in previous years the total was more like 2,500 to 3,000.

So from May to September the demand doubled.

“Definitely the price of food is one of the biggest reasons,” Armstrong said. “The demand is record high.”

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They’re seeing more low-income workers, the working poor, coming in with families, as well as single-parents, and seniors.

“The scary part is the prospect of Christmas,” he said.

They usually receive about 1,200 applications for food hampers at Christmastime, but if the need rises to 1,500, it will stretch their resources.

Their hopes are pinned at this point on the annual launch of the Christmas Kettle campaign, Dec. 1 to Dec. 23 with the iconic red kettles which provides cash to fill hampers, soup kitchen meals, as well as year-long food bank reserves.

Typically food bank officials say with every dollar raised by donations, they can buy $2 worth of food.

“We have the better buying power, and can stretch it the furthest, so then we can buy what we need the most.”

Another Sally Ann seasonal fundraiser is the Garage Sale set for Saturday, Nov. 5, 9 a.m. to noon, at the Salvation Army Church, 46420 Brooks Ave.

It’s not just Chilliwack seeing higher demand, the number of people using food banks across Canada surged to an all-time high earlier this year, with super-high inflation and chronically too-low social assistance rates cited as key factors in the latest report from Food Banks Canada. The report pointed to nearly 1.5 million visits nationwide to food banks in March, a figure that was 15 per cent higher than in the same month last year, and 35 per cent higher than visits in March 2019, before the pandemic hit.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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