Need for Christmas hampers could be up 50% this year, says food bank

It's not easy to ask for help, says Mike MacDonald, executive director of the Upper Room Food Bank, and staff do their best to make people feel comfortable. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
It's not easy to ask for help, says Mike MacDonald, executive director of the Upper Room Food Bank, and staff do their best to make people feel comfortable. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

CBC P.E.I.'s annual Feed a Family campaign is underway, and with inflation bearing down on Islanders Charlottetown's Upper Room Food Bank expects the need to be higher than ever.

"It's important every year, and this year, I guess, it's that much more important. We're seeing increases in food bank usage up to 40 per cent, month over month," said food bank executive director Mike MacDonald.

"We're seeing 60, 70, 80 new families every month looking for help."

That increase in need is just for Charlottetown. MacDonald expects food banks across the province have been seeing similar increases. MacDonald estimates there will be a need for more than 3,000 hampers this year. In recent years the need has been for about 2,200.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

It's a discouraging trend.

Food drives created as stop gap measures that expected to run for a year or two have become long-standing annual events. They have been joined by new initiatives such as community fridges.

"Food banks as well, when they were first created it was, you know, we'd be out of business in a decade," said MacDonald.

"Unfortunately, we're busier than we've ever been."

It's not easy for first-time visitors to the food bank, said MacDonald.

"Nobody wants to be in the position or admit that they're in the position," he said.

"These people that are coming in first time probably should have been in to see us four, five, six months ago, and now they're in a real dire situation."

Registration to receive a food hamper this Christmas is open.

Island Morning on the road

Drop off locations for turkeys or other food donations are open at 18 locations across P.E.I.

You can see the full list of locations on the Feed a Family page, or click on the link to make an online cash donation.

Donations will be accepted until midnight, Dec. 31.

Island Morning will be going on the road during the campaign, sharing stories of food insecurity in different communities and talking to the people supporting others in those communities.

Receiver Coffee has also signed on again to help, selling bags of Island Morning Brew coffee, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Feed a Family campaign.