B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

The first food bank I ever visited was one I went there to photograph. I was a first-year journalism student, armed with a borrowed Canon AE1, a fresh roll of TMax film, and a desire to get something “edgy.”

It was a tiny food bank, given the size of the city it served. But it was bustling. Behind the counter, volunteers scurried to fill and sort hampers. People patiently waited in line – their moods a mix of hope and apprehension.

The picture I came away with was of a middle-aged man, his one elbow propped on the countertop, his forehead cradled in his hand so his eyes were partly covered from my camera’s prying lens.

That photo has long since disappeared, but the memory has never faded.

ALSO READ: Dallas Smith, Terri Clark to perform on CP Holiday Train’s B.C. stops

As someone who grew up in the sheltered comfort of suburbia, I didn’t have a lot of experience with food banks. I hoped they were an aberration of the mid-’80s economic recession, but I was wrong.

Today, food banks are hardly a rarity. They can be found in every B.C. community – something that becomes even more obvious around Christmas time. Venture anywhere and you are reminded of the need to stock those shelves or offer financial support.

And the need is great.

In B.C., it is estimated 80,000 people rely on food banks every month, according to Food Banks BC.

Nationwide, that number grows to 1.1 million– one-third of them children, according to a study released by Food Banks Canada earlier this year.

So who are these people? Nearly half are people living alone, struggling to pay bills, afford rent and buy groceries. A growing number are seniors (11,000), people living with disabilities, or counting on social assistance.

Often food bank use is only temporary – a bridge to overcome an unexpected financial crisis, or to free up money for other priorities (like Christmas gifts for the kids).

Since the mid-’80, food bank use has grown, but it has also changed. Food programs now help feed hungry children at school, or educate their parents in community programs that show them how to prepare healthy and economical meals.

But the biggest change is the most innovative.

Once upon a time, canned goods and dried pasta dominated food bank shelves. The problem was storage. Food banks lacked the facilities to handle perishable products.

That began changing a few years ago with the launch of Food Bank BC’s “Perishable Food Recovery Program.”

With the help of a $10-million government grant, nearly 90 food banks in the province were retrofitted to provide refrigerator and freezer space to accommodate fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and foods rich in protein.

Then, through a partnership with major grocery chains, local farmers and other distributors, the program was able to divert food that would otherwise be thrown away.

The food is perfectly edible. It is simply approaching its best-before date, or doesn’t meet the aesthetic demands of fussy shoppers.

It is a classic win-win. More food (fresher and more nutritious) gets to those who need it, and less (an estimated $6-billion worth) goes into landfills.

Of course, food banks still need our support. And not just at Christmas time. Hunger and food insecurity might seem more obvious this time of year, but they are always present in our communities.

So, yes, make that donation. But remember, the need is there long after the decorations have been put away and the red kettle bells go silent.

Greg Knill is a columnist and former Black Press editor. Email him at greg.knill@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

BC Hyrdo outage map shows a section of Clearwater without power, Sunday, April 18. (BC Hydro)
BC Hydro confirms outage caused by wind storm in Clearwater

Residents are reporting their service has been restored, but the cause is not yet known.

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Most Read