Lo­cal food banks fill ham­pers ahead of Christ­mas

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

Show­ing oth­ers you care is a big part of what the Christ­mas sea­son is all about.

Vol­un­teers for lo­cal food banks might have their own thoughts about a good way to get in the spirit of the hol­i­days.

Food banks in Bay Roberts, Car­bon­ear and Pla­cen­tia are pre­par­ing their Christ­mas ham­pers to dis­trib­ute to those who need them.

De­mand at the So­ci­ety of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) food bank in Car­bon­ear has in­creased con­sid­er­ably since pres­i­dent Kerri Ab­bott first got in­volved with the or­ga­ni­za­tion over a year ago. She an­tic­i­pates 300 ham­pers con­tain­ing tur­keys, vegetables and oth­ers foods will be needed; almost dou­ble last year’s de­mand. SVP’s ser­vice area ex­tends to Old Per­li­can and down the North Shore.

Ab­bott said SVP at­tempted to make the food bank on St. Clare Av­enue more ac­ces­si­ble and vis­i­ble this year, which would ac­count for some of the in­creased de­mand. How­ever, rent is also ris­ing in the re­gion, and other monthly costs take prece­dent over food when the num­bers fail to add up, she added.

“There’s a lot more peo­ple out there that need to use food banks that aren’t,” Ab­bott said, not­ing ac­cess to trans­porta­tion in ru­ral ar­eas def­i­nitely presents a prob­lem for some.

The Pla­cen­tia and Area Com­mu­nity Food Bank also re­lies heav­ily on do­na­tions from busi­nesses and res­i­dents and the work of vol­un­teers. Food bank pres­i­dent El­iz­a­beth Roache said her group takes calls every­day from peo­ple look­ing for

“There’s a lot more peo­ple out there that need to use food banks that aren’t.”

— Kerri Ab­bott

help in the lead up to Christ­mas. It will serve up­wards of 200 clients this Christ­mas.

“Even to give the fam­ily a treat like Christ­mas candy or choco­late, that’s another big thing,” said Roache. “It’s nice to give them a treat as well as Christ­mas din­ner. You try to give them a lit­tle more at Christ­mas.”

Food drives or­ga­nized by schools and com­mu­nity groups are typ­i­cally a re­li­able source for do­na­tions in the Pla­cen­tia area.

Rev­enue source

Rev­enue gen­er­ated by an as­so­ci­ated sec­ond­hand goods store ben­e­fits The Help­ing Hand’s food bank in Bay Roberts. Op­er­ated by a board rep­re­sent­ing 12 lo­cal parishes in sev­eral sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties, The Help­ing Hand has a full-time man­ager and another staff per­son. Man­ager Dar­lene Kear­ley typ­i­cally helps pre­pare 200 Christ­mas ham­pers an­nu­ally.

“We have reg­u­lar clients that visit the food bank ev­ery month — and it is a once-a-month is­sue, un­less it’s an emer­gency,” she said, es­ti­mat­ing it serves 120 clients on av­er­age each month.

“Christ­mas time we al­ways get more … It’s prob­a­bly just peo­ple find it more dif­fi­cult dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son.”

In Car­bon­ear, c e real , canned meats, mac­a­roni and cheese and chil­dren’s snacks are in short sup­ply. While the food bank does man­age to pur­chase some of its food to dis­trib­ute, it has to pri­or­i­tize that spend­ing on other items such as bread, but­ter, and milk.

Roache names sim­i­lar food i tems when asked what’s needed the most at her food bank, which op­er­ates inside the Fresh­wa­ter Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

Ac­cord­ing to Ab­bott, many clients lack cook­ing skills. The So­ci­ety of St. Vincent de Paul and other lo­cal groups in the Car­bon­ear area pe­ri­od­i­cally hosts cook­ing classes to ad­dress that is­sue.

“Food in­se­cu­rity is a huge thing in this area, be­cause once you can’t af­ford it, you go years with­out buy­ing it. When we get fresh vegetables, a lot of the time, peo­ple don’t know what to do with it be­cause they’re so used to tak­ing a bag of French fries.”

“It’s hard to please every­body in ev­ery way,” she said.

The pro­file of who uses a food bank varies in the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion. There are stu­dents, se­niors, young fam­i­lies, and adults with re­cently de­ceased par­ents liv­ing on their own for the first time.

The Com­mu­nity Food Shar­ing As­so­ci­a­tion also sup­ports the three food banks through pe­ri­odic food do­na­tions.

Photo by An­drew Robin­son/The Com­pass

Dar­lene Kear­ley is The Help­ing Hand’s man­ager. Its food bank is par­tially sup­ported by sales at its sec­ond­hand store lo­cated on Pat­ter­son Street in Bay Roberts.

Photo by An­drew Robin­son/The Com­pass

This rep­re­sents just some of the stock kept at the So­ci­ety of St. Vincent de Paul’s food bank in Car­bon­ear.

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