July 16th, 2024

Food banks requesting water this summer

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 21, 2024.

Herald file photo The Rotary Centennial Fountain at Galt Gardens provides a cooling spray during a past summer. Multiple city agencies are teaming up to make sure bottled water is available to those in need during the hot summer months.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

As temperatures can scorch well above 30 degrees in Lethbridge, a multi-organization partnership has formed to try and beat the heat.

The Interfaith Foodbank and Lethbridge Foodbank have joined forces with nine other local groups, including the City of Lethbridge, to ensure water is available to those in need.

Mac Nichol, the executive director for the Lethbridge Foodbank, says this initiative is designed to directly send bottled water to people living on the streets.

“The water drive is to target our unhoused population, especially when the weather starts getting really hot,” said Nichol. “It’s difficult to keep that hydration up if you don’t have access to water very easily.”

He says the goal is to have residents donate refillable plastic water bottles that can be easily distributed to areas beyond the foodbank’s doors. This, he says, is important because the need for water is simply necessary for survival.

“We do have a lot of clients come in who are really just directly looking for water,” said Nichol.

“Having that hydration and (drinking water) is really difficult to get access to. There (aren’t) a lot of places in Lethbridge that can give them that portable level of water.”

Another initiative created to help keep thirst at bay is the City of Lethbridge’s drinking water stations that debuted last year. At four major parks in the city, residents can fill up their bottles at potable stations attached to fire hydrants.

Andrew Malcolm, general manager of Community Social Development with the City of Lethbridge, says the water drive is designed to work together with the drinking stations.

“We’re trying not to duplicate, we’re trying to add another option.”

Agreeing with Nichol, Malcolm says there are people who simply don’t have access to clean water bottles, so the drinking stations are a bit of a moot point for them.

“Ultimately, these two initiatives together, we hope it will ensure that our vulnerable population have access to water during high temperatures, which can be very threatening to people’s lives,” said Malcolm.

The City of Lethbridge has pledged up to $5,000 to support this cause, with Malcolm saying every dollar helps.

“Those matching dollars will be matched on a dollar per litre basis and the food banks will be collecting that data and issuing the matching funds accordingly.”

Neil Heaton, operations manager with the Interfaith Foodbank, says this helps because donations have slowed, causing the need to rise.

“Donations in general, I believe, are down right now compared to the past few years,” said Heaton.

Indeed, Nichol says grocery prices, along with drought concerns, are causing a lack of water donations to be made.

“I think even just things like what’s happening in Calgary can sometimes get people a little worried and wanting to protect,” said Nichol. “The downside is that a lot of our unhoused don’t have that opportunity. Even if they were given large amounts of water, they wouldn’t be able to hold onto it.”

Even with the concerns, Heaton says the community will rise to the occasion, supporting their neighbours with donations.

“Lethbridge is a very generous community. That’s why we put the plea out because people will support the food banks and their initiatives.”

Donations of either cash or water can be sent to the Lethbridge Foodbank or Interfaith Foodbank. The water is then distributed by boots on the ground.

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