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Wildfires and inflation, Shuswap food banks feeling the pressure

Local providers report significant increase in demand this year
In light of wildfires and soaring inflation rates, Second Harvest manager Vahlleri Semeniuk says the Salmon Arm food bank is one of many facing increased demand this year, with the Sicamous location also feeling the pinch. (Black Media file photo)

A natural disaster combined with economic pressures created the perfect storm this year, with area food banks unanimously declaring that demand has significantly increased.

Entering what is traditionally a busy season for food banks, Shuswap facilities were already feeling the strain from the Bush Creek East wildfire evacuations and losses, as well as the Consumer Price Index having jumped up 6.9 per cent last year, driving up the cost of day-to-day necessities.

“It is no longer only families living on seasonal income, or income assistance or pensions that are struggling,” Eagle Valley Community Support Society (EVCSS) executive director Janet McClean Senft said. “We are seeing two-income households that we would normally consider ‘middle class’ that are finding that when they have a month where there are extra bills or costs, they can’t manage everything.”

Second Harvest food bank manager Vahlleri Semeniuk reported a similar trend in Salmon Arm, stating they are seeing mostly seniors and working families come through their doors.

Open to the public on Wednesdays, she said they serve around 250-275 individuals on that one day, which equates to approximately 2,000-2,500 people being fed each month. After reviewing the year-end numbers, Semeniuk said they’ve seen an increase of 5,000 people over last year.

“A lot of people are in need, and they have to prioritize where their money is going,” she said, encouraging people to use the food bank and save their money for other necessities. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Though both food banks have only had a few evacuees come access their services, they are still feeling the impact of the Bush Creek East wildfire as they assist the communities directly impacted.

“We are supporting getting food out to the North Shuswap. We have staff and clients out there, and it has no food bank program,” McClean Senft said. “And I know that Kamloops, Chase and Sorrento food security programs have all mentioned the increased need with evacuees still in their communities.”

Both food banks are gratefully accepting donations, with EVCSS open Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Second Harvest, on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with an after house drop box also available. Semeniuk, however, said they actually prefer cash donations as they can buy in bulk and “get a better bang for our buck.” Those contributions can be made on their website at directly, or through the E-transfer option.

In B.C. alone, more than 80,000 people have to access food banks to ensure their families have enough to eat.

“These 80,000 individuals in our province will be choosing whether or not to buy groceries or pay the rent,” the Food Banks Canada website states. “No one should have to make a choice.”

Read more: Wildfire recovery in North Shuswap may take several years

Read more: Sicamous council considers kitchen alternative to ‘rat drive-thrus’

About the Author: Heather Black

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