The Drayton Valley Food Bank is gearing up for the holiday season, the busiest time of year.

Lyndon Muth, the president of the Food Bank, says support from the community is always inversely proportional to how tough times are.

“Meaning, the tougher times are the more the community gives,” he says. “It sounds peculiar, but that’s what we see.”

The new freezers and fridges that many sponsors in the community helped them to get are being put to good use, he says. 

Last spring, the Food Bank registered with Food Banks Alberta, an association that connects food banks across the province. With this registration comes access to more resources for the food bank, as FBA can share the different donations they receive. It also allows the food bank to access foods that are still edible but grocery stores are required to remove from their stock.

The Drayton Valley Food Bank pays $100 per year to be a member, but the supplies they get in return make that cost well worth it. The food bank is allowed an allotment once a month, which they can choose to take or not. At one point they received a pallet that had 1,300 pounds of dried food and 900 pounds of frozen food.

Lorna Muth, a director with the food bank, says a large portion of their time as volunteers involves source out places they can get food. Now that they are members of FBA, they can partner with local businesses. She says the local grocery stores have been “phenomenal” in their generosity. 

Lorna says this doesn’t mean that the food bank can go without the usual donations. She says the finances are pretty good right now, but if they don’t get funds in or food donations, they might struggle for the remainder of the year.

Even with the pallets from FBA and the donations from the local grocery stores, the food bank still has to purchase some food.

This is important given that the number of clients they are seeing is up this year.

Muth says since the evacuation, the demographics of the food bank have changed. Prior to the fire, there were many unsheltered individuals using the food bank. Now, Muth says it seems to be low-income families that are making use of it.

He believes part of the reason could be inflation and rising energy costs in the area. At their recent board meeting, they reviewed the statistics for September. In 2022, they had 110, this year they had 155 hampers, a 40 percent increase.

“Doesn’t matter what it is, I’m sure rent prices are going up. Every time you fill up your vehicle it’s more. You go to the grocery store and it’s like ‘Oh my gosh,’” says Muth.

The uptick in clients also had the food bank reconsidering how they meet with clients. In the past, Muth says clients and newcomers alike would make an appointment to come pick up their baskets. The process involves volunteers taking calls and making arrangements.

This meant that two volunteers were spending half their week taking calls for appointments. Muth says sometimes the number of calls would reach as high as 70 or 80. This much work, along with the fact that some people couldn’t make it to their appointment on time or didn’t even show up, was hard for the volunteers.

He says this year there are no appointments necessary. Instead, hampers of dry foods are prepared in advance and marked with the number of people it will feed. When someone comes in, they ask how many people are in the family, grab the appropriate box, and then add the frozen goods and fresh produce as well.

“When we’re on our game, we can probably get a hamper out in about four minutes, from the time they arrive until the time they are going out the door. So that’s not bad,” he says.

Even though they had a significant increase in clients, the food bank decided to forego the usual Thanksgiving food drive. Muth says partnering with FBA allows them to take a step back so that other community organizations can also get what they need.

He says this time of year can be hard for donors, as they have so many charities that are looking for help. “It feels like we’re over-taxing when we had ours on, so we dropped it. The community is basically doing what we did and more,” he says.

Because the regular community donations have been supplemented with help from the FBA, Muth says they feel they are prepared for the upcoming busy season. 

“Between the rescue from [local businesses] and what we’ve received from FBA, it’s probably been $60,000 of food. That’s been a huge benefit,” says Muth.

Some of this food from businesses is a result of the businesses policy. Recently, Muth says they got a truckload of goods that had frozen during transportation. Because the items were not supposed to be frozen before going to the store, such as blocks of cheese, bags of shredded cheese, they were donated to the food bank.

“We had so much,” says Muth. “We had every fridge, every freezer full to the brim. We ended up giving some to Warming Hearts, Opportunity Home, and the Alliance Church.”

However, Lorna says the food bank is also keeping in mind that there is a higher demand for the Food Bank in the colder months. As such, they are not turning away any donations.

Anyone who is in need of a hamper can show up at their location at 4820 51 Ave on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Clients are required to show ID for all members of their family.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 19, 2023 at 11:09

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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