Surrey's diversity means new challenges for food bank

The Surrey Food Bank says it's struggling to keep up with the wide array of dietary needs for its clients.

The charity now caters to people who speak nearly 50 different languages, which means they all value different types of food.

"A lot of them have never seen canned goods before," said the food bank's Feezah Jaffer.

Canned goods are traditionally the most donated item, but the food bank hopes that will change as it tries to be more diverse with food choices.

"We've been purchasing more fresh produce, more dairy, more protein," she said.

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In just a few years, the food bank's clientele has shifted drastically — going from mostly people on assistance and seniors, to an explosion of refugees and new immigrants.

Seventeen per cent of newcomers to B.C. settle in Surrey, according to Statistics Canada, with the city receiving more immigrants and refugees than any other municipality in the province.

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Jaffer also notes another big change bolstered by the high cost of living. 

She says there are more clients who they consider the working poor — people who have full-time or part-time jobs but struggle to make ends meet.

Dorothy has been using the food bank for about eight years and says she's noticed a lot of new types of clients around her.

And while the charity adapts to the new demographic, Dorothy tries to help the newcomers and encourages others to do the same.

"It could be you. You could lose your job in a moment's notice." 

Visit us on CBC's Vancouver's 2018 Open House and Food Bank Day this Friday, Dec. 7.