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Holiday donations fill Whistler food bank

Client numbers on the decline, says service manager

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While most of the world is looking for more, Sara Jennings wants less. The manager of the Whistler Food Bank wants fewer clients.

The number of Whistler residents in need of food bank help went down slightly through 2013. The downward slide last year followed consecutive years of decreasing need for the food bank services dating back to 2008 when the service struggled to meet the need of hungry Whistler residents.

Jennings said donations through the Christmas season were strong due to support this year for the first time from the Salvation Army.

"This was the first time they brought stuff up to us," said Jennings. "They brought food from the city while they were doing their kettle drive. It was a huge help. That was a massive donation every week of fresh and canned items."

Many companies in the resort also asked their employees to bring food bank donations to staff holiday parties. Jennings said those types of donations were strong this year because more and more businesses are helping this way.

"Every year we get a few new people doing it, so it seems to go up each year, which is great," Jennings said.

The Christmas giving was so generous that there isn't a New Year's dip in the Whistler Food Bank's food inventory. According to Jennings, the pantry is full and things look good for the next few months.

However, said Jennings: "While our shelves are full at the moment there will be more need in the future."

The number of clients visiting the food bank in Whistler has been sliding for a year now. Jennings said between 2008 and 2012 demand for help jumped due to the global economic downturn.

"So far, going through January our numbers are lower than January of last year, so hopefully we're continuing to see that downward trend," she said.

Food bank user numbers can be directly correlated to the state of the Whistler economy. Jennings said when the resort does well as a whole the number of people visiting the food bank drops. She was worried the lack of snow this season might push food bank visits up, but while there is concern over the snow levels, it isn't translating to increased need at the food bank.

"I've been hearing around town that business is doing OK despite the weather," said Jennings.

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