The number of clients served by the Whistler Food Bank on Monday, Dec. 20 was lower than the record number assisted on Dec. 6, but still higher than average.
According to Sara Jennings, who runs the Whistler Food Bank for the Whistler Community Services Society, the food bank assisted 113 adults and seven children on Dec. 20. That's lower than the 159 clients assisted on Dec. 6, but still well above average for this time of year. Until this year the food bank had never served over 100 clients in a single distribution day, which take place the first and third Monday of every month.
"The numbers did go down a bit, so hopefully that means people are getting more work now that the Christmas season has begun," said Jennings. "It's hard to make a trend out of one open day... It's hard to determine what's going to happen now, we'll have to see on our next open day."
Jennings says the majority of clients using the food bank recently are young people who are employed but were not getting enough hours to make ends meet.
The food bank also assists families and individuals with a range of issues, including people who are in other programs run by the Whistler Community Services Society.
Most of the people Jennings spoke to on Dec. 6 had never used the food bank before, and of the people who have benefited in the past the majority of those have visited the food bank for assistance fewer than five times.
Jennings recently told Pique that it was important to make that distinction because she says there is a false perception in the community that the food bank is being overused by chronic or lazy residents. In fact, she says the opposite is true - all but a small percentage of people use the food bank rarely and only in times of need. Those food bank users are also among the food bank's best volunteers and supporters, and many return the favour to the food bank when they are back on their feet.
Donations of food and cash have been generous, says Jennings.
"We are having to purchase a lot (of food), but we've been using donated funds so it's still going well," she said. "People have definitely been donating a lot, and our donations have picked up significantly."
Jennings expects that demand will remain higher than average for a little while, although she says it's impossible to predict what's going to happen. Meanwhile she's grateful for all of the assistance that the food bank has received from the people of Whistler.
"I'd like to thank everyone that's donated. It's been great to see the community come together and donate during this time," she said. "I'd also tell people to remember that the food bank is in need throughout the year, not only Christmas, and that donations are always appreciated."
By early December the food bank had already fed over 2,000 people, including more than 300 children. In a typical year the food bank will feed roughly 1,200 people.
The demand has been higher than usual for the past few years, and last summer - typically a slow time for the food bank - was the busiest summer yet. Demand started to go up in the fall as seasonal workers arrived in Whistler but were unable to find full-time work.
You can make donations to the Whistler Food Bank at local grocery stores, and cash donations online at www.mywcss.org/food-bank. Food donations that are always in demand include items like peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce, oatmeal, canned fruit and vegetables and other staples. A list is available on the website.
The Whistler Food Bank is located in a trailer behind Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church at the bottom of Lorimer Road. Food is distributed on the first and third Monday of every month, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Food Bank can also assist in food emergencies. Call 604-935-7717.