Christmas projects like 10,000 Tonight and the Santa Run are hugely successful, and for a time the Sooke Food Bank finds itself replete with cereal, canned goods and all manner of products that they in turn organize and distribute to the hundreds of people who are in need of a little help to put food on the table.
But then January arrives and the volunteers at the food bank watch as supplies are depleted and donations dry up.
“We are so grateful to the people of Sooke who so generously donated over the Christmas season,” Kim Metzger, Sooke Food Bank president, said.
“But although we still have some of that food left and can probably survive for maybe another month, we know that by the middle of February we’ll be trying to find a way to meet the needs in our community.”
Metzger said this January alone, the food bank has already distributed more than 700 hampers to clients.
“January and February can be a very tough time for people. All of a sudden they’re hit with Hydro bills that are much higher at this time of year. Or the kids need boots or warm clothing. Maybe they discover that those bald tires won’t make it through the winter. Anything like that can hit the working poor very hard and make it difficult to feed the family,” Metzger said.
She said too often people assume food banks are only used by the homeless in the community.
“We do serve the homeless, for sure, but most of our clients are made up of seniors who are just not able to make it on their pensions or working poor who, despite working full time, sometimes have to choose between food and keeping the lights on.”
And although it’s natural for people who generously donated to the food bank during the holiday season to move on to other thoughts when life returns to normal in the new year, Metzger wants to remind everyone that hunger transcends the holiday season.
“What we really need is for people to remember to donate a little something every month of the year. We have bins available all over town, and it would be great if, every time folks are out shopping, they drop something in the bin to help feed those who can’t afford to feed themselves,” Metzger said.
Alternatively, she pointed out that, by going to the Canada Helps website people can donate cash to the food bank that can then be leveraged to buy food in those lean times between food drives.
“We’re using some of that cash right now as we run out of things like Kraft Dinner, cereal, soups and other products, but we know by February that cash is going to start running low as well,” Metzger said.
Another food drive by the students of EMCS in the spring and the produce that will come to the food bank from the Sooke Community Garden, the Food Chi and the Grace Gardens at the Sooke Baptist Church will provide some relief to the food bank in the spring.
But for now, Metzger is appealing to the community to remember that people continue to need help long after the generosity of the Christmas season has faded.
Hunger, after all, isn’t seasonal.