The poor economy is behind a 40% increase in one year in the number of people using the Edmonton Food Bank, say officials.
“With the economy and the way things have been, that’s what’s going to happen,” said the food bank’s Debbie Theuss, who’s in charge of fund development.
“There have been a lot of hours cut, businesses closed,” said Theuss.
She said she sympathizes with first-time users who had good jobs and now can’t make ends meet through no fault of their own.
“Some people are very proud,” she said. “We have a lot of people coming for the first time. They’ve never been before.”
Theuss has other alarming figures about the increased use of the food bank, including the fact that 40% of its clients are essentially “children” under the age of 18.
Alberta-wide stats show more than 25% of the people forced to come for free food hampers are actually working, she said.
“Yes we had the Alberta Advantage, which was great, but there’s always a yin and yang.”
Lower employment possibilities and higher rents are taking a toll, she said.
Edmonton Social Planning Council researcher John Kolkman said there are other signs the city’s weaker economy is swelling the ranks of the disadvantaged.
The council this week released the 2009 edition of Tracking the Trends, a report that paints a dim picture as the city slipped from boom to bust.
The number of homeless people has quadrupled from 10 years ago to more than 3,000, Kolkman said. Things could get worse on that front, he said.
“There are two-and-a-half times as many Edmontonians receiving Employment Insurance benefits than last year. What happens to those individuals when their claims run out?”
He fears things could get tighter given that the province is trying to make cuts to fight its projected $6.9-billion budget deficit.
There is a ray of good news though, said Theuss.
Edmontonians are stepping up for the food bank and making donations to ensure the cupboards aren’t bare.
“Donations have picked up after the Labour Day weekend, so we kind of see an increase there,” she said. “We’re still very lucky there because the community is so supportive.”
Original article featured at the Edmonton Sun Newspaper