Higher wholesale food prices have left the West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund Society in a financial bind as it prepares to hand out its first hampers to families and individuals in need.
The Hamper Fund, which takes over the Goldstream Food Bank for the month of December, will pass along the first of about 675 hampers of various sizes on Wednesday (today, Dec. 14) from its location in the basement of the Langford Legion. What has organizers scrambling is the necessary purchase of grocery store gift cards – for meat and other perishables – and other food items which supplement donated non-perishable food, toys and clothing items in the hampers.
“Our food cost has jumped about 20 per cent and that really hits our budget line hard,” said Paul Patrick, hamper society treasurer and vice-president of the food bank. “We’re actually going into next year’s money to pay for this year’s hampers.”
While food banks pay a discounted price for grocery items, he said, “the cash isn’t going as far as it used to. I think all the food banks are going to feel the pinch this year.”
While non-perishable food donations are gratefully accepted during this season and throughout the year, Patrick noted, food banks are generally able to expand the buying power of cash donations by purchasing at wholesale prices. But unless cash donations increase at roughly the same level as food costs, that buying power is diminished.
Fundraising and food drive efforts for the cause over the past couple of weeks have helped out, Patrick said.
The annual CFB Esquimalt Fleet Diving Unit turkey fundraiser, while not the high-profile Turkey Run seen in past years, still managed to collect nearly $13,000 during its recent event at Millstream Village.
The Hamper Fund also had about 11,000 non-perishable items delivered last week following the 10,000 Tonight food drive undertaken Dec. 7 by students from Royal Bay and Belmont secondaries.
Recently the BC Transit Stuff the Bus food drive in area schools and the Island Equipment Owner’s Association Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive also helped bolster the food bank’s December stocks of non-perishables.
“If we didn’t have that, then our food costs (for the hampers) would be much higher,” Patrick noted.
Cash donations are accepted any time of year, but receiving them in the next couple of weeks will help the Hamper Fund ease its current cash crunch. Cash or cheques can be dropped off until Christmas, Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the basement at 761 Station Ave. Note that hamper delivery is taking place Wednesday through Friday, so Monday, Tuesday and Saturday are slightly quieter days to stop by.
Cheques can also be mailed to the West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund Society, 761 Station Ave., Victoria B.C., V0S 1S1.