While it’s nice to hear that the numbers are as good as they’ve been in the past few years, a lot of people are still in need of a helping hamper.
The demand is still high, said Gayle Ireland, president of the Goldstream Food Bank. “We deal with close to 10,000 people throughout the year, and another 2,000 hampers for families at Christmas.”
Almost a third of the people they assist are between the ages of an infant and 17.
Another challenge volunteers address is dealing with people with specialized dietary needs because of religion or culture. “We do our best to provide what we can for their specific needs,” she said.
The food bank follows established guidelines for nutrition and bases the size of the hamper on the number of people in the family. “We interview our clients to find out what they want and don’t want and try to build each hamper according to their needs,” Ireland explained.
The Goldstream Food Bank relies heavily on the community. Volunteers work closely with grocery chains to reclaim produce and other items. “We’re always working to expand that base,” Ireland noted. “It makes a world of difference in what we’re able to offer. There’s so many businesses, organizations, schools, churches and individuals that we rely on for support.”
She illustrated the difference individuals make by talking about an elderly woman who came in a few days ago with some produce from her garden that she couldn’t use herself. “That highlights the kind of ongoing support we get from the community.”
While September marks the annual return of kids to school, it also means more specific needs at the food bank. “We can use anything that helps with making lunches,” Ireland said. “We would also welcome school supplies that people may have and don’t need. We’re already starting to think about Christmas as well.” This is the first year the Christmas Hamper program will be administered by the Goldstream Food Bank Society, she added.
Ireland had a simple answer when asked what has kept her volunteering at the Goldstream Food Bank for more than 30 years, the past 16 as president. “It’s seeing how grateful people are,” she said without hesitation. “You see the tears, the relief on their faces, that they can put food on the table for their family.”