Every year, fall at the Mustard Seed Food Bank means a drop in donations. This year, director Janeine Boice said, is the worst drop they’ve seen in Victoria in years.
“It’s a dire situation, a situation we haven’t been in in years. Our cash donations are down 33 per cent and our food donations are in half, yet we’re still serving the families day in and day out,” Boice said.
But as donations drop, the number of people coming to the Mustard Seed for food is on the rise. Normally approximately 5,000 people visit the Queens Street location for their hamper program every month. This August, that number reached almost 6,000 people. Another 2,000 also come for hot lunch and family-style dinners.
The warehouse attached to the food bank on Queens Street has some piles of soups, non-perishables and a lot of empty space. Usually, their food is kept at a food security distribution warehouse and then brought to Queens Street when its ready to be given out, but that warehouse is empty.
“The cost of living has gone up in Victoria, and what we’re seeing is a change in demographic. Families that wouldn’t normally come to a food bank, are coming,” Boice said. “It’s very seasonal. Going back to school in September is a time of year when costs are on the rise. Families have to find extra money for school supplies, back-to-school initiatives, new clothes and they’ve just left a season of summer where they’ve had to cover extra childcare costs or summer camps.”
The Mustard Seed Food Bank is asking people to donate foods, especially non-perishables high in protein like peanut butter or tuna. They ask that people try to find canned soup with pull-off lids, as many people coming to the food bank don’t have can openers. Financial donations can also be made on their website, in person or over the phone. Since Mustard Seed buys produce and food on wholesale, the value of donated money is stretched farther, Boice said.