The Sooke Food Bank is bracing for another busy season as students return to school this week.
Yup, bellies will growl much louder as classes and homework will drain those young minds faster than squeezing a sponge.
That’s precisely why food bank coordinator Kim Metzart is concerned of the upcoming spike in demand, which is a common for food banks this time of the year.
“Back to school, that’s what we’re really thinking about,” Metzart said, adding the Sooke Food Bank is actually in better shape this year. “We’re doing better than we have in years. Is it great? No, it could always be better.”
From January until June, the food bank provided 33,000 lunches to Journey Middle School alone, with thousands more to other schools in the Sooke region.
Metzart said it is important for a child to be properly fed in order to function at school.
“Teachers said they were noticing right away … the difference in attitudes and grades, and it’s not an economic thing, anybody can go have breakfast, it’s just about eating healthy in the morning,” she said.
“We’re thrilled about it.”
As such, some items will become higher in demand than others this month, such as nutritious lunch stuff.
“Drink boxes and nutritious snacks for kids to take to school is huge,” Metzart said, adding that hot items like cereals, dish and detergent soap and toilet paper are always in demand.
With an increasing number of Sooke residents growing their own food in their gardens, Metzart said that has been a huge help as well when it comes to donations.
“Sooke really takes care of Sooke, and the community is donating.”
Despite having better numbers, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Sooke Food Bank, Metzart noted, as the facility, located downstairs in the already rapidly-aging Sooke Community Hall, is getting maxed out.
“We’re really looking for a new building. We really need a place where we could do more,” she said, adding that other food banks have called saying Sooke people can’t make the Sooke Food Bank’s hours, as it is only one day a week, three times a month.
“We’re missing our working poor, they’re having to go into town,” Metzart said, adding that the community hall’s ongoing use makes things difficult to open on the weekends.
Other services are lacking as well, which would otherwise make someone’s trip to the food bank a more fulfilling experience.
“We would like to have a computer for people to access social services and housing, but we can’t really do that here,” Metzart said.
Sometimes, though, you just gotta work with what you got, which is what Metzart, along with a whole swath of volunteers, have done exactly.
One of the main initiatives has been to crack down on theft of hampers.
In the last six months, loss of hampers has gone down by 225, which is a big improvement, Metzart said, adding that everyone will be required to show some identification before receiving a hamper.
This is to prevent those not living in Sooke, or even those who don’t need the food at all, from taking advantage.
“We’re never going to get them all, there will always be someone, but we’re trying to make it harder for people like that,” she said.
Overall though, Metzart said she’s really thankful for the generosity of the Sooke community.
“In Sooke, there are hundreds of little unsung heroes that come out, they don’t even want a thank you, they just show up, dump $300 worth of stuff and drive away.”