Kim Metzger, President of the Sooke Food Bank, says that food banks have become the new norm for lower-income working families. (Tim Collins/Sooke New Mirror)

Demand on food banks continues to grow

Food banks struggle with a ‘new norm’

As Kim Metzger surveys the many food items that now fill the shelves of the Sooke Food Bank, she realizes that the respite provided by the generous support of the community over Christmas will be short-lived.

“We have been truly blessed to be in this very generous community. The food drives over Christmas were incredible, and we have enough food now to take us, probably, to the end of February,” said Metzger, president of the Sooke Food Bank Society.

“But the truth is that we’ll be going back to the community for help at that time, and we really hope that the community will step up then. I think they will.”

RELATED: Christmas food banks a needed boost

It’s a sad truth that bedevils virtually all food banks across the province. The generosity that’s shown during the holiday season can fill food bank shelves to capacity, but the need knows no season and as donations drop off in the subsequent months, food banks know that the time will come when they will have to appeal to the community once more.

RELATED: call for donations was critical

“Hunger knows no season,” said Bev Elder of the Sidney Food Bank.

“People with nothing to eat are just as hungry in March as they were at Christmas, but the donations decrease by a lot as people get on with their lives. We have the same situation as Sooke … every food bank faces the same challenge.”

Another truth facing food banks is the nature of the clientele that they serve.

“There was a time, 30 years ago or so, when people looked at food banks and, sometimes rightly, assumed that people who used them were the unemployed, or people on the fringes. That hasn’t been the case for a long time,” Metzger said.

”We see the whole range of society come through our doors, there’s no rhyme or reason to it and you can’t predict who is going to show up here.”

Metzger said the vast majority of the food bank clients are employed but, within the lower income levels wages, simply have not kept up with the cost of living.

And the numbers of clients continue to rise.

“In the first week’s of operation after Christmas, we signed up 13 new families as clients. Today, we’ve been open for 45 minutes and have signed up three more families. The need just keeps growing,” Metzger said.

But Metzger is quick to note that Sooke continues to offer extraordinary support to her program. As one example, she points to the work of the Sooke Baptist Church congregation that three years ago conceived the idea of Grace Gardens, a parcel of land where the congregation raises fruits, herbs and vegetables that it donates to the food bank and other community groups.

“We got so much food from them, it was amazing. If they were to stop growing now, we’d be in a real mess,” Metzger said.

RELATED: Garden helps feed those in need

The food bank is run by volunteers and that new helpers are always welcome, as are donations. The Sooke Food Bank is available to anyone in need of help.

“No one who comes here will ever be turned away without food, and we will never be judgmental about someone’s situation as we offer that help.”

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Volunteers work to meet the growing need for for food bank services in Sooke. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

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