Hope Community Services executive director Michele Thornhill is sounding the alarm as the recent Holly Days campaign saw a staggering drop in monetary donations.
As the main annual fundraiser, Holly Days not only supports the Christmas hamper program, but also supports the food bank throughout the year.
“We saw a significant decline in donations this past campaign – $10,000 less than in previous years,” Thornhill said. “This will definitely have an impact on the food bank and next year’s Holly Days Christmas program.
“Donations (were) down everywhere, but this is quite a dramatic drop and we don’t fully understand why,” continued the executive director.
“We do know that other organizations decided to directly support families rather than donating to Holly Days, but that would only explain a small portion of the loss.”
At the same time, Hope Community Services saw a significant increase in the number of people supported through the holidays.
They provided hampers to 248 households, which included 222 children, 310 adults and 70 seniors, for a total of 602 people supported through the Christmas program.
Each household received a grocery gift card for each person, including children, along with produce, baked goods, treats, and toys for every child registered.
“People may not realize that we rely on donations to also cover the cost of rent, travel, insurance, grocery purchases, and more for the food bank throughout the year, so the campaign is more than just supporting the Christmas program,” Thornhill said.
“The only other funding we receive is a small gaming grant. The rest comes from community donations and periodic grants to purchase equipment,” like the one recently received from Food Banks BC to purchase a refrigerated van.
“The van is for our Food Recovery Initiative, a partnership with Save-On-Foods (that) we are thrilled about. We collect produce and bread products they can’t sell or has some damage and distribute it to food bank participants, soup kitchen participants, Family Drop-In participants, as well as students at Coquihalla Elementary School. We’re probably distributing to more than 600 households each month,” Thornhill said.
However, the grant only covers the cost of purchasing the van, and doesn’t include insurance, maintenance or travel costs.
In addition to providing a monthly food hamper, bread and produce, the food bank also provides a meal with every drop-in, because they understand people are hungry when they come in.
“Providing a meal helps people feel supported, respected, and socially connected.”
And while some people may believe that the people who use food banks have a fully stocked pantry at home, Thornhill says “most participants depend on their hamper each month just to get by.”
As for next year’s Holly Days program, Thornhill says the food bank is examining options, which include shutting down for the summer, reducing the amount of food going into hampers, and reducing the number of days they’re open each month.
“But we’re also brainstorming ways to generate revenue, such as hosting various fundraising events (because) we’d rather not shut down or reduce times that people can access the food bank, nor do we want to give less food to our most vulnerable citizens who are already facing significant barriers. So we’re hoping we’ll be able to recoup these losses through other means.”
If you’re interested in supporting the food bank program, either via a monetary donation or assisting with a fundraising event, contact Hope Community Services by calling 604-869-2466, or visiting their website at DoSomeGood.ca/organization/hope-community-services-348486.