Skip to main content

Inflation taking a bite out of food donations to community kitchens and food banks

Volunteers at Rainbow Kitchen in Esquimalt say the number of meals they are providing for the people they serve has jumped from 150 to more than 300 a day since 2020. (CTV) Volunteers at Rainbow Kitchen in Esquimalt say the number of meals they are providing for the people they serve has jumped from 150 to more than 300 a day since 2020. (CTV)

The rising cost of living has forced the demand for services at Langford’s Goldstream Food Bank to climb as the donations of food and cash drop to a trickle.

Staff at the agency say they have seen a 67 per cent increase in people requesting a food hamper since January 2022. They say they are serving the needs of people who are working, but with inflation hitting a level not seen for more than 40 years, more and more families need a helping hand at the end of the month.

“With rent going up and the price of gas being high, people have less and less disposable income,” said Goldstream Food Bank vice president Walter Dubeau. “People come in and they are at their wit's end and they need a hand and we’re here to provide that.”

Volunteers with the food bank say they are struggling to meet the increased demand due a drop in food and cash donations. They say the high cost of living has resulted people being forced to feed their own families before donating to the food agency at grocery stores.

“We used to be able to pick up two or three boxes at each store full of food and now and now we’re lucky if we pick up one,” said Dubeau. “If the trend keeps going the way it is, we may have to reduce the amount stuff we put in a hamper in order to serve everybody.”

The drop in food donations and the increased need to provide meals is also a concern for the volunteers at Esquimalt’s Rainbow Kitchen. They say the number of meals they are providing for the people they serve has jumped from 150 to more than 300 a day since 2020.

“We see new faces coming through our door every single day and we just keep seeing the demand rise,” said Rainbow Kitchen manager Ray Oelke. “We see a lot of families looking for groceries for their kids' lunches and as school has begun again those families are still looking for food.”

Oelke says she has also seen a drop in donations of food because people have less money to give due to the pressure of the high cost of living. She says with less donated food coming in to the community kitchen, the organization has to buy more food to fill the gap in order to provide meals for the people it serves.

“We rely less heavily on donated food and we're having to spend more to keep our fridge stocked so that we can keep providing lunches,” said Oelke. “We are depending more on fundraising and grants in order to make our meals happen.”

Dubeau says the Goldstream Food Bank is also coping with fewer cash donations coming into the Langford warehouse facility and online. He says so far donations of money are down about 30 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021.

“I see this as a bad trend and hopefully if the economy can stabilize, people will adapt and we can start getting more donations,” said Dubeau. “Monetary donations are very good because it helps us buy product to keep us going.”

Dubeau says what the agency needs now is donors purchasing food at grocery stores or dropping goods off at the Langford food bank on Station Avenue. He says items donated can immediately go on the shelves and into hampers for families.

“It's a difficult situation, balancing between the items that we purchase and the amount of food that’s donated, because they both go hand in hand to support the program,” said Dubeau. “We just hope that we get enough donations to do both.”

At the Rainbow Kitchen, Oelke says the volunteers are always fundraising to keep the meal program going. She says that cash donations made online on the community kitchen’s website go directly to support the program.

“We are always trying to get the word out about our kitchen so that we can keep providing the meals that we are at the rate that we are,” said Oelke. “We’ve seen a 100 per cent increase since 2020 with the number of meals that we are creating and in order to sustain that with the demand increase we’re always looking for more donations."

Dubeau says the volunteers at Goldstream Food Bank are already forecasting an increased need from families to receive Christmas hampers. He says the agency provided more than 600 families with hampers before Christmas 2021.

“I think this year we're going to be more towards 800 to 900 families,” said Dubeau. “That would make close to 2,000 people – children and adults – that we would serve.”

To make a donation go to the Goldstream Food Bank website. Top Stories

Stay Connected