Food for thought – before food banks

Younger people probably find it hard to believe that food banks were unknown until just a few decades ago

Bravo to Clearwater and District Food Bank for its highly successful Christmas hamper campaign.

As reported in last week’s issue of the Times, the 2011 campaign delivered 109 hampers to needy families and individuals in the area. Close to 250 boys and girls received Christmas presents as well.

The campaign was a credit to the food bank volunteers and to the community as a whole.

It begs the questions though: why do we need a hamper campaign? Why do we even need a food bank?

Food banks have become such an accepted part of our culture that younger people probably find it hard to believe that they were unknown until just a few decades ago.

According to Wikipedia, the world’s first food bank was formed in Arizona in 1976.

The first one in Canada was in Toronto in 1982.

Clearwater got its first food bank in 1985. Clearwater Timber Products had shut down one of its sawmills and the company contributed the use of its former office building on the Flats to the cause.

IWA members Carol Toth, Sharon Richardson and Ernie Smith were involved.

Over the years the location and main volunteers changed, but the food bank continued. Jeanette Stockton was a major driving force until her death about one year ago.

Today there are thousands of food banks located all around the world.

One argument in favor is food banks is that they make use of food that otherwise might go to waste – farmers’ surpluses, grocers’ overstocks, and so on.

They offer a low cost way to distribute that food to those who need it most.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t a symptom of deeper social and economic problems, however.

During the 1950s and 1960s there was much less income inequality than today, and we had no food banks.

We should seek ways to get back to those conditions.

In the meantime, we need to support our food banks and those who make use of them.