With the cost of living continuing to increase, young adults and seniors have found themselves struggling to afford food need to rely on supports in order to eat. 

Some of those community supports here are Lethbridge Food Bank, Interfaith Food Bank, Lethbridge Soup Kitchen, MyCityCare, and Meals on Wheels. Executive director of Lethbridge Soup Kitchen Bill Ginther noted the increase of senior women he has noticed at that facility.

“Somewhat disconcerting for me is to see the number of senior women that I’m seeing, and not that senior men aren’t part of that as well, but senior women who come. My first thought is where is your family, you know, so but one of the things that we’re seeing is that there’s more of them,” said Ginther. 

LSCO fund development and marketing coordinator Hannah Dupuis shared the government grants available to non-profits but in their case with Meals on Wheels program some seniors who are struggling can’t physically pick up food at food banks.

“The Government of Alberta did release a grant on food insecurity, targeted towards food banks and those sorts of things, which is great. Unfortunately, that money is only available to places that don’t charge for the cost of food at all. 

“So that would be fine if you’re somebody who’s mobile and is able to make it into a food bank to pick up a hamper or to make it into a soup kitchen. But the majority of our clients are more limited in their mobility. They’re not able to go into those places, and actually get the food that they need,” said Dupuis. 

Lethbridge Food Bank executive director Mac Nichol said the increase in numbers of families and individuals using the food bank are at their all-time high and continue to rise.

“For about a year-and-a-half, we’ve seen an increase. Last month, we met our record households, which is 750 households from this food bank. Overall, I know we’re serving almost 2,000 households between us and Interfaith Food Bank right now. And that that need has steadily risen, and this month coming up will be bigger numbers,” said Nichol.

Interfaith Food Bank executive director Danielle McIntyre encourages struggling families to register with Christmas Hope campaign to receive a Christmas hamper.

“If you register with Christmas Hope you’re going to get one Christmas hamper from either Food Bank being Interfaith or Lethbridge Food Bank. And then if you have children, you can register them at one of our three toy partners. So that would be Salvation Army Toys for Tots program, or Angel Tree that’s offered through Lethbridge Family Services, or MyCityCare. One toy option and one food hamper,” said McIntyre. 

Lethbridge Soup Kitchen does three meals a day throughout the week with the exception of Sundays where they do a brunch and evening meal. Ginther said people who are struggling to afford food can come to the Soup Kitchen for a meal and the doors are open to them.

“At the soup kitchen, we’re always open to whoever arrives at the door. We have no qualification. There’s no application, there’s no questions asked, if you’re hungry, you come. “

LSCO Homes support and Volunteer coordinator Bonnie Jensen voiced how their program works.

“With the Meals on Wheels program, we provide nutritious meals to seniors and sometimes other people as well, depending on their circumstances and situation. We provide them with nutritious meals daily, if they would like once a day delivered to them by a volunteer. And the meal includes a starch and a protein, a vegetable, as well as a soup and a dessert,” said Jensen. 

Jensen said LSCO will be providing a free Christmas meal to anyone on Christmas Day. Jensen asked all that are struggling and would like a free Christmas meal to contact LSCO ahead of time through 403-327-7990. 

“It’s a free hot meal on Christmas Day. And we also for individuals that are not able to get here to LSCO to enjoy that hot meal with other people in the community and have that socialization piece, for those that aren’t able to come here. We do deliver meal on Christmas Day, free of charge, there’s absolutely no charge to this meal whatsoever,” said Jensen.

Dupuis shared a study done in the U.S. about the importance having a hot meal.

“Providing meals on wheels gives them an opportunity to get a nutritious meal and a hot meal. There’s lots of studies that show that having a hot meal versus a frozen meal is actually better for health outcomes. 

“There was a study that they did in the U.S. that said that participants who participated in Meals on Wheels had 50 per cent lower rates of hospitalizations, emergency department visits and overall health care costs,” said Dupuis. 

Nichol welcomed those struggling to come down to the food bank to get the food needed.

“First thing is for our food banks, if anyone feels as though they’re in need, and that they need some food support. To just come down, we ask for a few different things of identification and proof of income and such. But other than that, we try and support those that are in need,” said Nichol.

By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 13, 2023 at 15:49

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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