The back-to-school season is always a busy time for the Okotoks Food Bank.
This year, they’re having to put in a little more prep time.
Executive director Pamela McLean says summers are usually a quieter time of year for the food bank, but that wasn't the case this time around.
“In the summer times, we notice, usually, that there’s a drop in clients accessing our services and we usually notice a drop in the number of food or monetary donations. That was not the case for this particular July and August.”
The food bank saw a pretty sharp increase in usage this year, likely due to increasing utilities, gas, and food prices.
Luckily, there was also an increase in local fundraisers.
Typically the two flagship summer fundraisers for the food bank, the Show and Shine and Taste of Okotoks, bring in most of the monetary donations for July and August.
Both events did happen this year, but they weren’t the only fundraisers.
“I’m really pleased to report that there were eight other third-party fundraisers that took place in July and August. Some are still going,” reports McLean.
“Okotoks Gong Cha bubble tea shop, out of the blue, they contacted us in July and said they wanted to do a fundraiser to help us get ready for the fall. They’re donating 25 cents from absolutely every drink sold from July 13 to August 31. That’s just one example.”
Murray Chrysler Okotoks held a six-week food and monetary donation drive, Home Depot collected food donations, and two separate pancake breakfasts were held in support of the food bank.
This uptick in support for the food bank kept them afloat during what McLean describes as the busiest summer she’s seen for the food bank.
“In my time here as executive director of the Okotoks Food Bank, I’ve never run out of certain items on our shelves. For instance, I’ve never run out of peanut butter, I’ve never run out of Kraft Dinner, I’ve never run out of brown beans. They were always being donated in some form. This year I’ve actually had to purchase these staples items.”
Things aren’t likely to let up though, with schools starting class in the next week or two.
“We certainly have seen, in particular, an increase in the number of children we’re helping this year. I would have to say it’s increased 40 per cent up to August over last year. I do anticipate that that number is going to increase, even more, starting in September,” says McLean.
They're still managing to keep their head above water, though McLean does note that reserves aren’t really a consideration at the moment.
Despite that, she has faith that this time of need will pass and that their shelves will be overflowing in no time.
“We’re going to get out of this holding our own and get back to a little bit more stockpiling and saving… Times are tough but it’s not bleak, we see so much goodness here at the food bank, so many individuals and organizations wanting to help, not wanting to see their fellow man go hungry. I’m not in despair, I haven’t given up hope. We will get through this, as we always have, in the loving arms of our community.”
For those looking to help out, the food bank posts a “What’s Needed Wednesdays” post every week outlining the top five items they’re short on.