Food bank operators in Newfoundland and Labrador say a surge in users that began during the pandemic has continued as the cost of living continues to rise.
The Food Bank Network of the Bay of Islands in Corner Brook is experiencing a significant jump in the number of clients availing of its service compared to last year.
"From January to April of this year, we responded to 194 food requests. So that's a 25 per cent increase from the same period last year," said Joy Connors, the network coordinator with the Food Bank Network.
Connors said she expects that surge in demand will continue all year.
"We expect it to be very busy throughout the year, especially during the fall when families are trying to get their children ready for school," she said.
"We don't a see a decrease for sure. We expect to continually see an increase as the year continues".
Cash donations are helpful for food banks because it allows them to make bulk purchases — mitigating some of the procurement costs because of discounts.
"Financial donations are extremely important to us as well. We are able then to take that donation and purchase food at the best prices," she said.
Demand has tripled
St. Kevin's Parish in the Goulds is also seeing similar trends.
"Just in the past two years, I would say the demand has almost tripled", said Carol O'Brien, a spokesperson for the parish.
Bulk purchases, like other food banks, are also a key strategy in utilizing resources at the parish.
"When we have the cash available to go, we do buy bulk when whenever possible and when the funds are there to use. And we also have freezer facilities."
Securing fresh produce for food bank users is becoming increasingly challenging. If the budget does not allow for it, the quality of the food being handed out to clients can suffer.
Just in the past two years, I would say the demand has almost tripled. - Carol O'Brien
"With the high cost of meat and chicken and things like that, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, unless we get support from the communities and the individual people there who are able to give, it makes it very hard to provide good quality food hampers to the clients," O'Brien said.
A significant number of the clients have jobs, but they are unable to make ends meet.
"People in dire need of putting some groceries in their cupboards are either the working poor, or they can't if they've got to fill their car up with gas, something has to give," said O'Brien.
"A lot of those people, in order to pay their rent and so on, they have to avail of the food bank. So it's becoming increasingly difficult."