The challenges faced by the world’s hungry differ from country to country; regardless, their collective plight will be recognized on World Hunger Day, May 31.
In Williams Lake the Salvation Army hopes to use that day to educate the community as to the work it does at the food bank, and in its kitchen where it regularly prepares breakfast and lunch for those in need.
Judy Blakely, food bank intake worker, estimates the bank — through its kitchen and hamper program — supports a catchment area of 44,000 people.
She says it serves everyone from those who use the service regularly to those who are more sporadic users. A high percentage of bank users are the working poor and increasingly seniors.
Although Judy concedes mentally it’s hard for people accessing the bank for the first time to walk through their doors she says they, “Are wonderful people and they become a part of our community and we become a part of their lives.
“People come in for food but also to nourish their minds. They know they will be warm, comforted and respected. We treat everyone as we want to be treated.”
Blakely and Karl Flunkert, food bank supervisor, think the difference between being poor in Canada and being poor in a Third or Second World Nation, for example, is that in Canada poor children are an anomaly surrounded by the majority who enjoy much more privilege.
“In a Third World country at least everybody is hungry and everybody has a challenge,” says Flunkert.
The bank’s food comes from donations made by the community, donations of perishable items by several businesses in the community and those that are purchased through financial contributions to the food bank. In order to provide meals the food bank regularly purchases staples like sugar, rice, milk, pasta, flour, rolled oats and coffee.
What clients do not receive much of at the food bank is protein. Canned tuna, salmon and ham are provided when it’s available from donations but the food bank does not supply it.
“Protein is really important to these families,” says Blakely. “They don’t have enough money to buy it.”
Protein is commonly provided through peanut butter, cans of pork and beans and some soups that the food bank incorporates into meals or gives out in hampers.
The Williams Lake Salvation Army reports a somewhat grim assessment of their current situation. It notes that it is unable to meet the current rising need with the levels of donations being received at this time. In the past three weeks the food bank has processed 43 new cases and this year has served 500 individuals a month compared to the 50 it was serving per month in 2007.
It concludes, need to access additional food sources to ensure the sustainability of its present services in the community. A walk around the food bank’s store room reveals shortages of non-perishable items like peanut butter and jam, canned fruit and juice, canned meats, and toilet paper. It has also recently been low on perishable items such as fresh vegetables and bread.
Struggles aside, there are success stories. This month, says Blakely, four individuals were able to move on from the food bank as they found employment.
The food bank is currently looking for volunteers to serve meals during the morning and at lunchtime.
On World Hunger Day, the Salvation Army will host a tour of its facility..
Interested members of the community are invited to attend.
For more information contact the Salvation Army.