Central, eastern P.E.I. food banks well-stocked but always in need following Christmas

·2 min read

Despite winter sometimes being a slow time for donations, food banks in Queens and Kings County are optimistic they’ll be able to continue to serve their clients following a COVID-19 Christmas season.

Mike MacDonald, executive director of the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry in Charlottetown, said it had a good December and he feels like it's in a good spot moving forward.

"But the winter is long, and we are seeing more people than we did this time last year," he said. "You never really know."

Between March and December last year, the Upper Room saw an increase in usage of about nine per cent compared to the same period in 2019. Its Christmas meal program was up 23 per cent. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why there was an increase, MacDonald said.

"The effects of COVID are certainly one of those reasons."

The Southern Kings and Queens Food Bank in Montague served about 225 families this Christmas, which is on par with previous years. A staff member was also recently hired in response to the rising demand for services, treasurer Vivian Dourte said.

While it has lots of leftover turkeys, thanks to a successful turkey drive before Christmas, it's always in need of a few key items for its regular users, namely brown beans, tuna and peanut butter.

"We're always short of things to put in the kid's lunches," Dourte said.

Ronnie McIntosh noted the Souris Food Bank is in a good position partly because it – like many P.E.I. food banks – received extra support, resources and money donations from the government and other organizations in 2020.

"We have been certainly a high priority for many of the groups," he said, "to see that we were able to maintain the services that we're offering”.

North Rustico's food bank is smaller in comparison to others, but volunteers from the surrounding communities have been pitching in to keep its shelves stocked. It provided about 25 Christmas meals last month, volunteer Donnie Blacquiere said.

"It's being well-used," he said. "(And) there's always a need for more. We never want to see anybody go hungry."

Marianna Burda, co-founder of the South Shore Food Share in Crapaud, said when the pandemic first hit, the food bank's user base increased by 10 times the usual amount over just a few days.

However, the increase was matched by an increase in donations, even from people who may have less to give. Aside from always being low on food items for school lunches, it has been a phenomenal year for them, Burda said, and she’s hopeful about the winter.

"This generation of adults are raising a generation of givers," she said. "Everyone's giving. This is probably the most giving place on the planet."

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Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian