Food bank need 'blew me out of the water', says chaplain

Forty per cent more clients used the Upper Room Food Bank in May of 2022, compared to the same time last year, says Mike MacDonald, who manages the food bank.  (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
Forty per cent more clients used the Upper Room Food Bank in May of 2022, compared to the same time last year, says Mike MacDonald, who manages the food bank. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

More people are turning to food banks to feed their families, and fewer are able to find room in their monthly budgets to give.

Food Banks Canada released the 2022 Hunger Count Report on Thursday.

In P.E.I., the report doesn't show a big increase in food bank use — but Mike MacDonald, manager of the Upper Room Food Bank and Soup Kitchen, said things have changed dramatically in the last few months.

"It is just a snapshot of that month," MacDonald said. "Really May, June and July is when we started to see our numbers really increase."

Laura Chapin/CBC
Laura Chapin/CBC

June was a big month for the food bank, with more than 800 families coming in. Normally, demand increases heading into winter, and at the start of the school year.

Then in August, more than 900 families needed help.

"It's way too many people, but if you need help, please come in," MacDonald said.

When MacDonald compared May of 2021 to May of this year, he saw a 40 per cent increase.

It's much the same story at the UPEI food bank.

"September blew me out of the water," said Sister Sue Kidd, campus minister at the Chaplaincy Centre at UPEI. "Our numbers were almost 800 for the month of September."

Ryan McKellop/CBC News
Ryan McKellop/CBC News

She said in the past, maybe 20 or so students would come in over the month.

"If they need help, they come," she said. "We try to provide an environment where they can come to de-stress."

Despite what Kidd describes as robust donations, she said need is outweighing the giving.

"I keep thinking we are full, we are good for a while, but then 90 students come to the food bank, or last week more than 120," she said.

She said the sports teams at UPEI have been working hard to raise donations and help out.

"Islanders do take care of Islanders," Kidd said. "And that's a real gift."

"Drive up, flip your lid. We'll be there to serve you." — Bill Irwin, Charlottetown Y's Mens Club

A big source of donations is the yearly Charlottetown Y's Men's Club food drive, which is Saturday. But last year, donations dropped. Organizers hope a small change in timing will help this year.

"We thought we would try this approach this year, shift it to a Saturday daytime," said Bill Irwin, who works with the food drive.

The food drive runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 13 locations around Charlottetown and area.

Charlottetown Y's Men's Club Food Drive Locations:

  • Winsloe Lions Club.

  • North River Fire Department.

  • West Royalty Sobeys.

  • Charlottetown Superstore.

  • Cornwall Lions Club.

  • Malcolm Darrach Centre.

  • York Point Community Centre.

  • Foodland.

  • Independent Grocery Store.

  • West Royalty Superstore.

  • Culinary Institute.

  • Sobeys on Allen Street.

  • 124 St. Peters Road.

"Drive up, flip your lid," said Irwin. "We'll be there to serve you."

The food drive started as a one-time event in 1986 to help solve a food insecurity problem in Charlottetown.

"Here we are, 36 years later," Irwin said.

"We are always thankful for every donation we get," said MacDonald. "We know that people are struggling today. People don't have the extra funds to donate."

"No donation is too small."

Right now each month, the food bank is seeing between 50 and 60 new households coming in. Last year, the number of new households monthly would have been between 25 and 30.

"There are a whole bunch of reasons why they are coming," MacDonald said. "We just want to make it as comfortable and seamless, as easy for individuals to come into the food bank as possible."

Post tropical storm Fiona didn't help things.

"Replacing groceries that were lost, individuals were not able to work, there's definitely another group of individuals who are struggling or those individuals who were struggling are struggling that much more," MacDonald said. "It will take months to recover from Fiona."