Hunger isn't seasonal

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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The need for donated food continues way beyond Christmas

Many children showed up at the St. John's Downtown Christmas Parade in November with a Santa letter in one hand and a bag of food in the other.

According to the Downtown Development Commission, close to 20,000 pounds of food was collected by Newfoundland Power employees at the parade, as well as almost $10,000 in cash donations.

Eg Walters, executive director of the Community Food Sharing Association, says food banks are ready for the holiday season, but will need support after Christmas, too. - File photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Many children showed up at the St. John's Downtown Christmas Parade in November with a Santa letter in one hand and a bag of food in the other.

According to the Downtown Development Commission, close to 20,000 pounds of food was collected by Newfoundland Power employees at the parade, as well as almost $10,000 in cash donations.

Eg Walters, executive director of the Community Food Sharing Association, said the financial contributions from the parade were up about 20 per cent over last year, while the food collected was "pretty well on par."

The Community Food Sharing Association relies on food drives to fill its Christmas hampers and help stock the shelves of 48 food banks throughout the province.

"I would say that food banks on the Eastern Avalon will provide somewhere around 7,000 hampers this Christmas season," Walters said in a recent interview.

"From the registrations that we've gotten in so far, it looks like it's going to be at least the same as last year, if not more."

Estimating that each hamper contains $100 to $150 worth of food, Walters said "you're talking anywhere around half a million dollars to three-quarters of a million dollars worth of food that goes out just Christmas week alone" on the Eastern Avalon.

That's not including other food banks throughout the province, he said.

Walters said other food drives this year organized by Tim Hortons, schools at Thanksgiving, Canada Post's postal workers and companies and groups that collect food for Christmas also contribute greatly to the cause.

But the Community Food Sharing Association is not only concerned with filling Christmas hampers, but also about maintaining a supply of food throughout the cold winter months.

"When food banks reopen after Christmas, we've got to have food there so they can stock their shelves," Walters said.

"And that's got to take us up to the latter part of February when the oil and gas industry has their big food drive. We're just like a little hamster on a wheel.

"A lot of people go home Christmas Eve and they've got this feeling of satisfaction that they've gone out there and put money in the Christmas kettle for the Salvation Army, probably bought a turkey and dropped it off to the CBC turkey drive, given a coat for the Coats for Kids or given to the Happy Tree, and then they look after their own and they're donored out. They really they need a month or two just to get their own stuff on track and get their own bills paid before they start thinking of the less fortunate again. And that's just the reality of it really.

"That's why it's critical that we collect product now that will take us through January and February and the long cold hungry month of March."

Walters said food bank use across the province increased by about 10 per cent in 2009 over the year before.

He said in 2008, about 27,000 people in the province used food banks; in 2009, there were more than 30,000.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the global recession that we've come through," Walters said.

As well, he said, a lot of Newfoundlanders who were working on oilsands projects in Alberta, which have experienced slowdowns, have been left unemployed.

"I'm not saying that these people were using food banks, but these are people who were making good money and that were supporting other charities and food banks throughout the province.

"So, the loss of employment in that sector certainly has an impact on what's happening with food banks," Walters said.

The downturn in the province's paper mill industry and problems in the shrimp and lobster fisheries also affects food banks, because people who were making good money before and making donations to the food banks, the cancer society, the Janeway hospital and other charities, no longer have the same disposable income.

On top of that, winter is always difficult as home heat bills rise.

In early December, Walters said the Community Food Sharing Association had just finished shipping food into Happy Valley-Goose Bay before the shipping lanes closed for the winter.

This year, he said, the association was able to get food into Labrador City. The Labrador West food bank has been around for a while, but transportation has been a problem in the past.

Walters said they could get food into Happy Valley-Goose Bay because the Department of Works, Services and Transportation will take it on a donated basis from Lewisporte.

The Labrador City food bank recently found a company willing to transport food from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Labrador West.

"So now, we've got a network that will take it from St. John's where our hub is to Labrador City," Walters said.

Some of the food is distributed to northern Labrador communities, such as Rigolet and Cartwright.

"The can of beans that's donated in the Santa Claus parade can end up anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador," Walters said.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Community Food Sharing Association, Downtown Development Commission, Newfoundland Power Tim Hortons Canada Post Salvation Army CBC Coats for Kids Janeway hospital Labrador West food bank Department of Works

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Happy Valley Goose Bay Alberta Lewisporte Labrador West Northern Labrador

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Truth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Danny Williams needs to take this to heart. A have province??? Yeah, for him and his cronies.

    People are starving here, health care is still in shambles, roads are treacherous, infrastructure is straight out of the 1960's, and Danny Williams is too busy in his bubble of upper middle class/wealthy friends and colleagues to even notice or care, AND is far, far too preoccupied, obsessed, really, with his constant personality wars with anyone who dare take him on or even disagree and scrutinize his edicts and actions as a PUBLIC official elected by us, the PEOPLE. Peasants, really, in this NL, as this article so sadly indicates. It is worse than ever.

    Merry Christmas, especially to those in great need. The greedy, piggy capitalists who have nothing better to do than to bully. I hope you get your proverbial lumps of coal. Shame.

  • TaxWatch
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    MHAs spend approx $5,000.00 each on XMAS cards. That over $200,000.00 in total. Why not have all MHA s to NOT send out XMAS cards and DONATE these funds to the FOOD BANK.? Taxpayers would prefer this I'm sure.

  • jason
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    The Government hasnt gotten people addicted to anything. People make their own choices. Taxwatch I agree, I usually just toss out my greeting cards from my MHA and MP with the other junk mail. I voted them in beacause what I thought they could do for the district and not because they sent me christmas cards. $200,000 could sure go along way this time of year to better causes. Truth teller its not Danny's fault people are in the situations they are in. I know many families that make little money but can stretch every dollar and dont need the support of the food banks, I also know others that should be ashamed for using the food banks

  • Truth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Jason, if we are so prosperous, the over-reliance on food banks should not exist, right?

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Something to consider, for those who collect AirMiles Reward miles....... for 120 points, you can get a 20 dollar Sobeys' gift certificate . That's something that you can bring to the Food Bank, for them to get the food that they need. I got a few certificates last yr, and bought extra groceries for the food bank...every extra bit helps.

    Kind of funny...... in a province that's known for it's generosity..... the food banks shouldn't even have to say a word about going short, any time of the yr. Yes, there are those who abuse the system, but they exist in every walk of life., and have no compunctuation about abusing people or systems, as long as they come out on top. On the flip side of that coin, you have people here who would rather starve, than seek out what they'd call a handout, or are too ashamed to ask for help. Sometimes, you have to take the ugly( the abusers) with the good ( the ones who truly need a hand), if it means that someone in need is given a helping hand, when they need it the most.

    C'mon people, it's Christmas time. A time of peace, and joy, that should be for everyone. If you can help out, then stop a minute and do so. It will give you a sense of peace,in knowing that you helped others, and give someone else joy. I consider that to be worth the effort.
    Merry Christmas. Spread the joy of being alive, and being able to share with others, guys.

  • Disappointed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I wonder if there is a correlation between the increase in the use of food banks and the increase in the use of video lottery machines. I am not sure people are overall financially worse off than ever; but food bank usage may have lost some of the stigma associated with it in the past, causing more people to use them. If this is a sign of more people than before actually needing free food, versus people now using the food bank when they didn't use it before, then there should be an investigation into how this happened. Are people less willing to live within their means when they see others having more, or are their means actually inadequate if they budgeted and lived within their own budget? I don't know.

  • Whatever Bud
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Maybe if the people living in these huge King William-esque houses who can barely afford their mortgage would stop living outside their means there would be less pressure on the food banks.
    To Disapponted: if there is a correlation between VLT gambling and violent crime (domestic abuse,armed robbery,etc),you can rest assured there are hungry kids as well. Everyone who has ever gotten arrested in the last 15 years(or since VLTs have become part of the landscape) for an armed robbery has claimed the Government has gotten them addicted to VLTs and have gotten off with a slap on the wrist.

  • Truth
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Danny Williams needs to take this to heart. A have province??? Yeah, for him and his cronies.

    People are starving here, health care is still in shambles, roads are treacherous, infrastructure is straight out of the 1960's, and Danny Williams is too busy in his bubble of upper middle class/wealthy friends and colleagues to even notice or care, AND is far, far too preoccupied, obsessed, really, with his constant personality wars with anyone who dare take him on or even disagree and scrutinize his edicts and actions as a PUBLIC official elected by us, the PEOPLE. Peasants, really, in this NL, as this article so sadly indicates. It is worse than ever.

    Merry Christmas, especially to those in great need. The greedy, piggy capitalists who have nothing better to do than to bully. I hope you get your proverbial lumps of coal. Shame.

  • TaxWatch
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    MHAs spend approx $5,000.00 each on XMAS cards. That over $200,000.00 in total. Why not have all MHA s to NOT send out XMAS cards and DONATE these funds to the FOOD BANK.? Taxpayers would prefer this I'm sure.

  • jason
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    The Government hasnt gotten people addicted to anything. People make their own choices. Taxwatch I agree, I usually just toss out my greeting cards from my MHA and MP with the other junk mail. I voted them in beacause what I thought they could do for the district and not because they sent me christmas cards. $200,000 could sure go along way this time of year to better causes. Truth teller its not Danny's fault people are in the situations they are in. I know many families that make little money but can stretch every dollar and dont need the support of the food banks, I also know others that should be ashamed for using the food banks

  • Truth
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Jason, if we are so prosperous, the over-reliance on food banks should not exist, right?

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Something to consider, for those who collect AirMiles Reward miles....... for 120 points, you can get a 20 dollar Sobeys' gift certificate . That's something that you can bring to the Food Bank, for them to get the food that they need. I got a few certificates last yr, and bought extra groceries for the food bank...every extra bit helps.

    Kind of funny...... in a province that's known for it's generosity..... the food banks shouldn't even have to say a word about going short, any time of the yr. Yes, there are those who abuse the system, but they exist in every walk of life., and have no compunctuation about abusing people or systems, as long as they come out on top. On the flip side of that coin, you have people here who would rather starve, than seek out what they'd call a handout, or are too ashamed to ask for help. Sometimes, you have to take the ugly( the abusers) with the good ( the ones who truly need a hand), if it means that someone in need is given a helping hand, when they need it the most.

    C'mon people, it's Christmas time. A time of peace, and joy, that should be for everyone. If you can help out, then stop a minute and do so. It will give you a sense of peace,in knowing that you helped others, and give someone else joy. I consider that to be worth the effort.
    Merry Christmas. Spread the joy of being alive, and being able to share with others, guys.

  • Disappointed
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    I wonder if there is a correlation between the increase in the use of food banks and the increase in the use of video lottery machines. I am not sure people are overall financially worse off than ever; but food bank usage may have lost some of the stigma associated with it in the past, causing more people to use them. If this is a sign of more people than before actually needing free food, versus people now using the food bank when they didn't use it before, then there should be an investigation into how this happened. Are people less willing to live within their means when they see others having more, or are their means actually inadequate if they budgeted and lived within their own budget? I don't know.

  • Whatever Bud
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Maybe if the people living in these huge King William-esque houses who can barely afford their mortgage would stop living outside their means there would be less pressure on the food banks.
    To Disapponted: if there is a correlation between VLT gambling and violent crime (domestic abuse,armed robbery,etc),you can rest assured there are hungry kids as well. Everyone who has ever gotten arrested in the last 15 years(or since VLTs have become part of the landscape) for an armed robbery has claimed the Government has gotten them addicted to VLTs and have gotten off with a slap on the wrist.