In the 15 years that Dave Murray has served as co-ordinator of the Abbotsford Food Bank, he has never seen things look so dismal.
Last Friday, Murray headed out to order $15,000 worth of beans, soup, Kraft Dinner and peanut butter because the food bank was out of all those items.
“This is stuff we never run out of,” he said.
Murray said the agency is also in very low supply or out of other staples such as pasta and rice.
The Friday order was expected to arrive Tuesday, but may only last one week.
With the holiday season approaching, Murray is concerned about having enough food to go around.
“We’ve never, ever been in this situation – not like this…” he said.
The food bank currently serves about 3,000 people each month. It operates as the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau at this time of year, providing gifts and food hampers for families in need.
At the food bank’s Progressive Way warehouse, most shelves are either bare or piled high with empty boxes – nearly 2,000 of them – awaiting food that has not yet arrived.
“I’ve seen it low in the summer, but not ever like this,” said the food bank’s Lynden Pennell as he surveyed the scene.
Abbotsford’s Food Bank isn’t the only one feeling the pinch this year.
“I was in contact with a couple of other food banks, and they’re saying the same thing,” said Huw Franklin, the food bank’s manager of food distribution.
Murray said although community support continues to be as strong as ever, the higher cost of living has meant that people are able to give less with their money than in the past.
For example, he said an annual food drive held in September by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last year collected about 15 pallets of food.
This year, they donated 10 pallets, despite having expanded their collection to more homes. With each pallet holding 24 boxes of food, that meant 120 fewer boxes this year.
Murray said those five fewer pallets would have translated into 10,000 fewer cans of soup.
The economic situation also means that clients are not able to stretch their money as far, creating an even greater need for the food bank than ever before.
Murray said food items currently needed are: pasta, pasta sauce, vegetables, canned meat, rice, canned fruit, beans, chunky soup, small canned soup, Kraft Dinner and peanut butter.
Cash donations are also being accepted for the Christmas Bureau, with this year’s fundraising goal set at $850,000 – the cost of keeping the food bank going year round.
The public is also welcome to donate new unwrapped toys and gifts, particularly for teens.
The Christmas Bureau is also in need of individuals, businesses and community groups to sponsor families, providing them with gifts and food for the holiday season.
Families in need of support are encouraged to register as soon as possible.
For more information, call 604-859-5749 or visit abbotsfordfoodbank.com.
-with files by Tyler Olsen
Toys for Tots Christmas Breakfast takes place Friday
The second annual Toys for Tots Christmas Breakfast takes place in Abbotsford on Friday, Nov. 28.
The event, benefitting the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau, runs from 6 to 9:30 a.m. at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre.
A free buffet breakfast is provided to anyone who drops by with a cash or toy donation.
The event, emceed by Cliff Prang, features a visit from Santa and live entertainment, including a photo booth and Christmas music.
For those who don’t have time to come in, a drive-thru will be set up in the parking lot for people to drop off their donations and enjoy a free coffee or hot chocolate.
The Abbotsford Christmas Bureau, which operates as the Abbotsford Food Bank for most of the year, provides gifts and food hampers for those in need over the holiday season.
This year, the bureau expects to help more than 1,200 children.
Last year’s Toys for Tots event collected almost $16,000 in cash and more than 900 toys.
For more information, visit abbotsfordfoodbank.com.