Unemployment, layoffs, and reduced hours and wages have prompted more people to seek social assistance this spring, as visits to the Whistler Food Bank have more than doubled in recent months.
According to Sara Jennings, who was appointed as food bank coordinator last month for the Whistler Community Services Society, the demand has cut into the food bank's supplies and savings.
In March 2008 the Whistler Food Bank had 58 clients, compared to 124 the same month this year. April numbers improved both years, but the demand this year was still twice that of April last year - 41 in April 2008 and 89 in April 2009. May is tracking on par with March.
"We haven't had our second open date yet, which would give us better numbers, but the first half of May is comparable to the first half of March," said Jennings.
She says clients range from newly laid off employees to workers who have seen their hours cut recently as the winter season winds down.
Jennings is asking people to donate food at local grocery stores (IGA, Nesters and Creekside Market), or contact her to make donations of food or money that is used to purchase staples.
In a few months Whistler's greenhouses will also contribute food to the food bank, but for now all of their food must be donated or purchased with donations.
"A lot of people think of us at Christmas or in the fall, which is great, we make those donations last. But we are under very heavy usage right now," Jennings said.
Items in demand include staples like rice, pasta, pasta sauce, instant noodles, oatmeal, cereal, canned fruit and vegetables, soups, granola bars, peanut butter, packaged side dishes and other non-perishable items. Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables are welcome, as well as hygiene items like shampoo and conditioner.
The food bank is also looking for a donated wagon to carry donations and for more volunteers to help bag and distribute food to clients.
The food bank operates the first and third Monday of every month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and in case of emergencies.
If you have a larger donation to make or an emergency request, contact Sara Jennings at 604-935-7717.