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Lean times for out-of-work locals

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Tin of tomatoes, tin of tuna, packet of pasta, jar of peanut butter. Sounds a bit like a blizzard rations checklist, but it’s also what hundreds of locals are living off until the finally snow comes and work picks up.

The Food Bank and other businesses in the community have gone into overdrive as the demand for cheap food and charity parcels has reached plague proportions. It’s a scary equation to consider:

No snow means no tourists. No tourists means no work. No work means no money. No money means no food.

Spare a thought especially for those who’ve come from abroad. Aussies and Kiwis who spent their savings on their first white Christmas are contemplating going home. British students cannot meet loan payments taken out to fund a dream gap year in the snow.

Then there are the families. Parents working seasonal jobs are sending out an S.O.S. for basic necessities.

Things are tough all over thanks to these bad ol’ El Nino weather patterns and Whistler’s Community Food Bank is preparing for the worst.

Food Bank director Sandra McCarthy said more than 130 people turned up for a few free bags of groceries last Monday, many for the first time.

"A lot of people are really embarrassed they’ve got to put their hand out, but we completely understand and are totally here to help," she said.

She said winter is always the food banks’ busiest time but due to the unusual lack of work, the numbers are steadily growing.

"The response has meant that we’re now opening every Monday, rather than just every second week. We can’t stand the thought of anybody going hungry."

The Food Bank always has bins by the check-outs at Nesters Market, IGA and the Grocery Store, and after the Thanksgiving weekend tourist trade, many of the bins were full.

"Thank goodness they were because we went through it, that’s for sure. I hate to think anybody would have had to miss out, but if things don’t improve, it just might be the case," said McCarthy.

Those friendly Food Bank warriors will be wandering around the grocery stores again this weekend looking for donations of any kind. It can be as cheap as a tin of soup – not a lot of money, but priceless to the people who receive it.

Dozens of Whistler companies are asking employees to bring food gifts to their staff Christmas parties this year. Invitations are not only listing party particulars but requests for cans as well.

The Whistler Grocery Store’s manager, Rob Sage, said their Christmas party donation request was the least they could do in light of the situation. "We hire a lot of Aussies and Brits and put them up in staff housing, but if you could see how many kids are coming in completely desperate for work. It’s very sad having to turn them away."

Behind The Grind is also championing the charity cause. They have just announced their ‘Out of Work, Out Of Food" dinner specials until the snow falls. Owner Chris Quinlan said budget-conscious bodies will be able to get a hot meal for $4.50 between 5 and 7 p.m. every night.

"Each night we’ll offer a special dish. Chicken and salad, lasagna and salad, pasta, wieners and beans, whatever it takes to keep up their spirits. The snow will come, we just need to help them through the big wait," he said.

The Food Bank is open every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For emergency deliveries, phone 604-905-8023. Volunteers are always needed to help out too.

Behind the Grind is located in Sundial Place, behind Fanatyk Co at 604-905-6621.

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