Food banks at the United Native Friendship Centre here and the local Salvation Army definitely will be thankful for the proceeds from the “Great Chili Cookoff” being held Friday—their shelves are in dire need of supplies.
“Our stock is fairly low, [in fact] we are low on all staples,” said Marjorie Atkinson, a food bank volunteer with the Salvation Army.
“The [cookoff proceeds] will come in very handy,” she added.
Atkinson, who is looking after the food bank while Lt. Michael and Wendy Cumben are on holiday, did not have access to statistics on how many people were using the food bank service there.
But she did suggest it had been busy during her two weeks of work.
“The Cumbens left me three new applications forms for when they were away and I used them all up one day," she noted. "I had a fairly good run on [the food bank] last week.”
But Atkinson said that was pretty normal given it was the end of the month.
That comment was echoed by Peggy Loyie, Healing and Wellness co-ordinator at the UNFC and distributor of food shelf items there.
“[Usage] varies according to how close it is to the end of the month and whether family allowance cheques make it in time,” she explained.
The UNFC food bank deals in non-perishable items such as canned and dry goods like its counterpart at the Salvation Army, and Loyie said it is not just for use by the local native population.
“We are not exclusively for First Nations people," she stressed. "We have a real cross-section of the community using it.”
Both Atkinson and Loyie said it was important for each food bank to work together in order to properly serve the needy public, and to share both information and food items if necessary.
“The [Salvation Army] has shared forms with us so that we are getting the same kinds of information,” said Loyie.
“If the [UNFC] was very low on food and they needed something we had, they would send someone over and [vice versa]," noted Atkinson. "We do try to work together.”
Both said a working relationship between the food banks included making sure clients did not make use of both services at the same time thus misusing the system.
Meanwhile, with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, both food banks are expecting an increased demand for non-perishable items.
And the threat of a postal strike also may play a hand in bringing more people in for food, Loyie noted.
“The postal strike may well impact this as well," she warned. "Especially those people who haven’t taken some action to have direct deposit of their cheques.”
Last year’s “Great Chili Cookoff” raised $1,171.10 for the Salvation Army’s food bank.