It has become a year like no other for the Lethbridge Food Bank and the Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge as growing demand keeps them from keeping pace.
But despite the pressure, the food banks were thrilled to exceed their collection goal for the annual citywide Target Hunger food drive.
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“Target Hunger is designed to make it easier for people to participate as donors,” Interfaith executive director Danielle McIntyre said at Saturday’s event. “No one is knocking on your door. You can take out a bag if you want.
From the influx of donations, it seems many people in Lethbridge wanted to help.
The food bank pair had set a combined goal of raising 50,000 pounds of food during Target Hunger, and on Monday Lethbridge Food Bank executive director Mac Nichol said not only had that goal been exceeded, but donations kept coming in.
“It’s coming in a trickle. A lot of our pickups are in different places like grocery stores, Cornerstone Funeral Home, and libraries,” Nichol said. “But currently we’ve taken 60,000 pounds between the two food banks, as well as almost $6,000.”
The combined value of community contributions was estimated at nearly $195,000 as of Monday afternoon.
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The annual food drive is the biggest event of the year for organizations. Last year Target Hunger brought in more than £73,000 in donations, but McIntyre says 2022 had organizers unsure what to expect.
“This year is different from other years, in that we’re just coming out of a pandemic, and we’re also experiencing inflation and very high grocery costs,” she said.
The Interfaith Food Bank has seen a steady increase in demand since March last year; McIntyre says that with the current economic climate, events like Target Hunger are needed more than ever in the community.
“Month to month our numbers are going up, which is not unexpected – we just came out of a pandemic – but current grocery prices, fuel costs, will definitely put more people in our range,” she said.
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This increase in demand has been reflected at the Lethbridge Food Bank, where Nichol says the numbers have almost become alarming.
“This year, in May, we welcomed 150 more families than the previous year. These numbers are a little scary,” he said.
“We also run a school lunch program – Mindful Munchies – and that program is helping 150 more children this year than last year.”
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The need for a successful food drive was not lost on the 200 volunteers on Saturday.
Fred Gravel has been a volunteer with Interfaith since 1998 and has participated year after year in Target Hunger. He says this year the desperation has been clear.
“The shelves are empty and I think everyone is feeling the pinch, with all the high prices and stuff,” Gravel said. “So all of this, everything that we engage in, comes from the heart.”
Organizers are encouraging community members to continue bringing bags that may have been missed during Saturday’s collection; donations will continue to be accepted at local food bank and grocery store collection bins. Financial contributions are also accepted online.
The hope is that Target Hunger’s donations will help keep the shelves of both food banks stocked for at least the rest of the summer.
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