June 14th, 2024

Christmas Hope Campaign wraps; food bank sees 47 per cent increase in clients

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 4, 2023.

Herald file photo Agency representatives joined forces at the start of the holiday season for the Christmas Hope campaign.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

With the Christmas Hope Campaign wrapping up for 2022, the agencies involved are taking a look back to reflect on how they each were able to contribute to a successful year.

From the Interfaith Food Bank, executive director Danielle McIntyre said she was very grateful to have the Christmas Hope partnership, because through that partnership they were able to do what they do best and take care of the food part, while knowing their toy partners were taking care of making sure children had something under the tree.

“I think that it is really nice that we were able to work off one master list and were able to direct the donations to where they were needed most, and that each one of us could do what we do best without duplicating services from one agency to another,” said McIntyre.

She said the Interfaith Food Bank did 40 per cent more hampers over Christmas 2022 that they did the year before and they saw an increase of 47 per cent in people they served.

“What is sad to me of that, is that we had a 37 per cent increase in adults, but 65 per cent increase in children that we served this year compared to last,” said McIntyre.

She said the IFB serves a lot of large families and one of the reasons is because they offer a baby bundle program and therefore families get re-directed to them.

“A lot of families with young children come here because of that baby bundle program and we also implemented halal hampers last year, so a lot of the Muslim families are coming here as well and they tend to be the larger families,” said McIntyre.

She said they provided 93 halal hampers to Muslim families in December.

“In them they received halal chicken instead of the regular turkey. A lot of the items that we include in a halal hamper are traditionally eaten foods by the Muslim population, so a lot of grains, yogurt, beans and a lot of whole foods, a little bit different than a lot of the other canned products,” said McIntyre.

She said that what the word halal means is that it is permissible, that members of the Muslim population are allowed to eat those things.

“A lot of the food that we process here in North America use gelatine or some of the food that is not permissible in a Muslim diet, so we buy foods that are specifically halal to go into the halal hampers,” said McIntyre.

She said the IFB provided 877 households with hampers in 2022 including Muslim families, which was an increase from 630 hampers in 2021, showcasing a 40 per cent increase.

“We provided food for 924 children and 1263 adults for a total of 2187 people in December,” said McIntyre.

She explained that every month they provide in their hampers five to seven days’ worth of Canada Food Guide recommended servings to families.

“We call it a monthly hamper because you can only get one per calendar month, but it’s not a whole month’s worth of food, because we’re not trying to create a culture of dependency,” said McIntyre.

She said the hampers are packed with most needed items that people should have in their pantry like pasta, pasta sauce, cereal, canned vegetables, canned meat, canned fruits and dry goods.

McIntyre added that at Christmas time, they throw in a whole bunch of nice Christmas things as well like stuffing, cranberries and scalloped potatoes.

“We normally add a meat unit and frozen potatoes and people can choose fresh bread and produce from our pick room, but at Christmas we also add things like turkey, ham or chicken, eggs and margarine, all those Christmas special things so that families have an opportunity to create a festive meal to share with their families and any friends that might come by,” said McIntyre.

She said they are very grateful to the community for helping them provide food to those most in need through the Christmas season, but unfortunately they do not have the surplus they usually have for the new year.

“I want to express our gratitude to the community for helping us to get through Christmas, but also let them know that it’s likely we’re going to need their help through the whole year,” said McIntyre.

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