Food Banks of Saskatchewan Gathering Together to Feed Those Who Need It
Saskatchewan, and the world, are living through historic times. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live and work in literally days. This new reality has created home offices out of thin air, dramatically altered what we consider essential, and driven businesses of all kinds into survival mode. Canada is facing historic levels of unemployment as companies and organizations have been forced to close as we race to save lives and flatten the curve. While the federal and provincial governments develop and implement programs to support people and businesses, there is an immediate need to help our province’s economically vulnerable put food on the table for their families.
Food Banks of Saskatchewan, the umbrella organization representing the province’s 32 food banks, has launched a campaign to feed the hungry during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. Industry West caught up with Laurie O’Connor, the organization’s volunteer executive director, to see how people can help. “We’ve launched a COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund, with a goal to raise $6 million in six months,” says O’Connor. “In normal times, our food bank members support 40,000 residents a month. Just in the last three weeks, some members have seen a 20 per cent increase in need. That number is only going to grow.”
During normal operations, food banks prepare hampers with enough food for two to three days. Now, food banks are preparing hampers with a week’s worth of food as food needs have jumped as the ability to earn money has dropped dramatically. “We’ve also passed the first of April, so people have paid their rent with whatever remaining funds they had,” says O’Connor. “Now, the tough time starts as incomes are gone and benefit programs haven’t started yet.” Many more people are faced with no money to buy food for their families, some for the first time in their lives. “Job losses will drive more people to us. We saw it during the 2008 Economic Crisis, and we can see it starting now,” says O’Connor. “Employment insurance and other benefits will not be enough for many people to pay for housing, utilities and food.”
Food Banks of Saskatchewan has leapt into action, calculating what they will need to meet the demand for nutritious, quality foods in the face of hurdles like the inability to hold food drives because of public health concerns. “Right now, financial donations do the most good for our members,” says O’Connor. “With our bulk buying power, we can purchase a week’s worth of food for a family of four for $50.”
Getting involved is easy. Food Banks of Saskatchewan has set up an online donation page at skfoodbanks.ca, accepting credit cards and PayPal. “Our province is so generous when there is a need, and anything you can give will help someone who desperately needs it. Now more than ever, we can come together and share with one another,” says O’Connor. “It’s times like these that our province rises to the occasion and helps their neighbours in need.”