It’s a familiar refrain from food banks in the metro region: demand is growing and supply is dwindling.
Monday night at the St. Vincent De Paul Society food bank at St. Peter’s Parish in Mount Pearl, president Con Milmore witnessed two families come in search of food that had never been there before.
“Almost every month, we’re getting two or three new ones,” says Milmore, noting the demand for service has increased 30 per cent at St. Peter’s alone over the last few years.
“The need is there, not only in Mount Pearl, but other food banks around St. John's and Paradise areas. Every one of them are feeling the crunch, especially this time of year.”
The situation at the St. Peter’s bank and another at Mary Queen of the World is so dire at present that Milmore says they were forced to make their first public plea for a food drive in 15 years.
Agent Jenny Rose of Hanlon Realty heard their call and approached fellow realtor Debbie Hollett, who sits on the company’s community committee, about holding a food drive.
“Two or three years ago the owner Wayne Hanlon bought us a tour bus with our company logo on it. At that time, we decided the bus would be a great thing to do stuff with, so we did a food drive with Coleman's at Christmas time at the Newfoundland Drive location and we ended up, between food and money, raising over $6,000,” explains Hollett.
This Saturday, she and other members of the Hanlon team will fire up the bus once again with the aim of filling it at Coleman’s in Mount Pearl during a 12-hour drive — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — in aid of both St. Vincent de Paul food banks in the city.
“There’s probably lots of parents out there trying to get their kids new outfits for school and trying to get them school bags, so the odds are they're not concentrating on food so much, so we thought let's fill the bus for the kids going back to school and try to help out a little bit,” says Hollett.
Saturday, as it happens, is about the 20th anniversary of Hollett’s career in real estate and she’s only happy to use the occasion to give back.
“I am a service-driven person, so I'm going to be doing exactly what I want to be doing on my 20th anniversary; I'm going to be giving back to the community that has given me a good living,” says Hollett, who hopes the food drive becomes an annual event.
Milmore says there’s always a call for back-to-school friendly snack options from clients this time of year, so those types of non-perishable goods won’t go astray. But there’s a general need for all non-perishable items to help restock the shelves, including canned fruit.
“I don't know if it's expensive or whatnot, but we don't get a whole lot of that in,” he says.
Of course, the food bank graciously accepts monetary donations that go a long way towards purchasing perishable groceries. Milmore says they spend up to $4,500 a month on items that aren’t donated.
“Every dollar counts,” he says.
“I take my hat off to Hanlon Realty for taking the initiative to go do this.”