By Kalinowski, Tim on May 7, 2020.
Lethbridge’s food banks are weathering the COVID-19 storm well at the moment thanks to strong community support, but expect an uptick in users in the months ahead as the underlying economic difficulties Alberta is facing begin to bite home.
“It has actually been a nice thing to see how our community has come together, pooled resources and thought of new and innovative ways to make sure families aren’t going without the supports they need right now,” says Lethbridge Interfaith Food Bank Society executive director Danielle McIntyre.
“We aren’t sure what things are going to look like in the recovery period here because (federal) income supports are temporary measures, and we are really hoping we are not going to have many actual job losses as opposed to temporary layoffs.”
Some of those worrying impacts are already being felt now, agrees Lethbridge Food Bank executive director Maral Kiani Tari, and she hopes it is not a sign of more difficult things to come.
“Our numbers are fluctuating in the past month,” she says. “They are lower now, but we are seeing a lot of new clients who weren’t our clients before. These are individuals who have experienced layoffs and are struggling at this moment.”
Both food banks are preparing for a potential jump in numbers if the economy doesn’t come around as fast as hoped, or stalls because of the lingering impacts of COVID-19 and the oil price crisis.
“The underlying weakness of the economy,” states McIntyre, “has been somewhat overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While actual food donations have been down for much of the last month, Kiani Tari says community financial support has helped make up some of the gap. She is hoping that support continues even after the local state of emergency is cancelled in the city and the pandemic takes a backseat to larger economic pressures in the coming months.
“The community has been amazing, and people have definitely stepped up and helped our food bank knowing these are tough times,” she says. “We have seen an increase in community support, and we do appreciate it.”
“People aren’t necessarily coming into the food bank (with food donations), but they are still sending their support,” she says.
Both food banks, and their partner agencies, are still providing delivery service for food hampers and additional food supports. Kiani Tari emphasizes that any individual or family needing supplemental nutrition due to their economic circumstances should call in for support.
“If anyone is in need of food support both food banks are here to help, and we are delivering at this moment,” she says. “We want to make sure we eliminate some of those barriers.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter