Food bank in Metro Vancouver sees spike in need after the holidays

The executive director of Fraser Valley Regional Food Banks says they may need to give out three million pounds of food this year, up from two million last year, with the increased need. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
The executive director of Fraser Valley Regional Food Banks says they may need to give out three million pounds of food this year, up from two million last year, with the increased need. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The holidays may be over, but a food bank in B.C. says it is still overwhelmed by the number of people signing up for help with groceries, and some staff worry a time will come when they won't be able to help everyone in need.

The Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank typically sees about 25 more families register for help at this time of year, according to director Matthew Campbell — but this year, that number has ballooned to about 75 in just the first 10 days of the new year.

"We're worried — yeah, we have enough food for January, but what's February going to look like? What's March going to look like? We're very concerned," Campbell said.

Olivia Fletcher says her family of six recently turned to the food bank in Surrey, B.C., and that the cost of feeding her family and paying her bills is just too high.

Mike Zimmer / CBC News
Mike Zimmer / CBC News

The 45-year-old former nurse says without the food bank, she'd have to choose between heating her home or making sure everyone in her household has enough to eat on a daily basis. Her children and partner range from ages 14 to 50.

"It's hard to keep up with the bills, especially January, February," Fletcher said.

"A lot of these families [that rely on the food bank], it takes six months just to catch up from giving their kids a few things at Christmas."

Fletcher isn't the only one turning to the food bank right after the holidays: Tetiana Rozkhina, who arrived from Ukraine in October, says she visited the food bank for the first time on Tuesday.

"Prices become more expensive and it's a little bit hard," she said.

According to Campbell, the weekly number of families coming to the food bank has also increased dramatically, from roughly 200 a week to nearly 500 or 600.

"Any other year it's sort of a manageable increase. This is almost an overwhelming increase," he said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"So, the fear and concern is definitely palpable among our volunteers and staff. What is going to happen a month from now? Do we have enough food coming in?"

He says the food bank gave out two million pounds of food last year, and he thinks that number will easily climb to three million this year with the increased need.

Cost of living creating strain for B.C. households

Dan Huang-Taylor, executive director of Food Banks B.C., says the number of new clients accessing services across the province rose 62 per cent compared to this time last year.

"This cost of living crisis is creating a significant strain on the household budgets of British Columbians, and this is being felt across the food bank network," Huang-Taylor said in a statement to CBC.

"With inflation keeping prices high at the grocery store on top of what was already a very precarious financial situation for many British Columbians, more and more people are needing to access services such as food banks."

As someone who is turning to the food bank because she feels she has no other option, Fletcher says she has an ask for her neighbours.

"If you have more than you need," she said, "by all means please donate it because we need it."