Column: Food bank shelves are almost bare

Some of the most vulnerable in our neighbourhoods were dangerously close to going hungry, all because many of us simply forgot

When a recent call to the newsroom from the local food bank left me scrambling to submit a news piece with less than an hour until deadline, I found myself in a bit of a state of shock.

It wasn’t the fact I was rushing to file a story moments before we went to press that had me shaken. As a journalist, I’m trained to work to deadline – let’s face it, we usually work very closely to said deadline. What shook me was that the Sidney Lions Food Bank’s emergency plea was made because their shelves were almost bare.

The first thing I asked food bank administrator Beverly Elder was whether a shortage like this was something they’d experienced before. From previous research, I knew that summer is the food bank’s lowest donation time.

People are away on vacation, they’re busy doing things around home or preoccupied with work or family – whatever the reason, they forget to donate. While they normally see a dip in donations during the summer months, Elder said, the food bank has never been so low on supplies.

The food bank serves 1,100 Peninsula-based clients a month, 39 per cent of whom are children under 16, and 12 per cent of whom are seniors 65 and older. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our community and they were about to run out of one of the most basic human needs – something most of us take for granted.

Growing up and living most of my adult life on the Saanich Peninsula, I have been enormously lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes, gardens, beaches and realistically, some of the most privileged people in all of Greater Victoria.

As of mid-August, the Saanich Peninsula boasted 77 properties for sale that were valued at over $1 million. The most expensive (which is still for sale, in case you’re in the market for a multi-million dollar mansion) was listed at a cool $12.9 million. If you’re on a tighter budget, you could have the second most expensive for a mere $9,985,000. But I digress.

What baffled me that day as I toured the food bank, photographing its empty shelves, was that in one of the most affluent communities on the Island, some people were going to struggle to find enough to eat. Some of the most vulnerable in our neighbourhoods were dangerously close to going hungry, all because many of us simply forgot.

It’s easy to become preoccupied. We all have jobs or families or both, that take up much of our time. We plan vacations, business trips and coffee dates and fill our iPhones and Blackberries with appointments and reminders that seem to pop up on our screens in an endless slideshow of “to-dos.” But seldom do I – and I’m sure many others – take the few minutes it would require out of my week to stop and consider someone else’s misfortune. Consider the needs of someone less fortunate or maybe a person who just needs a helping hand at that very moment.

We know that in every community there are people less fortunate than us. And sometimes, although we may not want to consider it, we might fall on hard times ourselves. As a community, we rely on the generosity and consideration of one another.

Whether it’s fundraising to help one of our own battle an illness, donating clothes or toys to a neighbour who could put them to better use, or simply dropping by a few cans of food to the food bank – we all benefit from giving back to the communities we live in.

We just have to remember and take the time to do it.

 

Devon MacKenzie is a reporter with the Peninsula News Review.