Food banks in Manitoba are facing record demand as 2023 comes to a close. According to local organizations, rising food prices, inflation, and the influx of Ukrainian newcomers are all contributing to the increased need.
One organization, Harvest Manitoba, served a record 51,000 people across the province in November alone. That’s a 150% increase since the pandemic began and a 30% increase over just the past year.
“We’ve seen a lot of people who are working, but they’re just not making enough to make ends meet,” said Meaghan Erbus with Harvest Manitoba. “And we’re also seeing a lot of new Canadians who are coming from Ukraine and they’re really struggling.”
The surge in demand is not the only thing putting pressure on food banks. Erbus says donations are down, both in terms of food and money.
“We’re concerned for the future to some extent,” she said. “We’re hoping that things will start to turn around in 2024, but we’re not sure what to expect.”
Another organization, Siloam Mission, is also feeling the pinch.
“It’s a balancing act as we see this higher need and kind of are working with similar, if not the same resources,” said CEO Tessa Blaikie-Whitecloud.
Whitecloud says about 600 people access Siloam’s drop-in service and many of those people are new.
“That’s good in a way, because it means that other people are cycling out and getting supports that they need,” she said. “But it also means that that need continues to happen in our city. So how do we start to get ahead of that?”
Despite the challenges, food banks and other organizations are hopeful for 2024.
“I believe in us because I think, as a city, we see these issues and we want them solved for our neighbour,” Whitecloud said. “And so together we can do it.”
Added Erbus, “I hope that that’s the trajectory for folks… and that there’s more money in the pockets of those that need it. And I hope that the numbers for food banks decrease. We need it to happen. It’s utmost important right now for the numbers to decrease.”
In addition to the challenges mentioned in the article, food banks are also facing a shortage of volunteers. If you are able to spare some time, please consider volunteering at your local food bank.