Christmas Hamper-Sorting Day at Goldstream Food Bank
Tuesday December 12, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated December 13, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
Well, here’s a sign of the times… “No More Mac & Cheese on Shelf” (please and thank you)… seen today at the Goldstream Food Bank in Langford, BC. Donations are a plenty, but the balance of what goes into the food hampers is important.
The Christmas season hampers were being filled and distributed today at Goldstream Food Bank in Langford, to 740 registered recipients this year (up from about 500 last year). That’s about 1.5% of the city’s population needing this level of support.
People defaulting to relatively cheap products from the grocery store shelves is not new. But many of those products are not possibly as nutritious as fresh food, and will almost always contain additives of various types which may have negative health impacts of their own.
Recently in the national media there was a trend to discussing the cost of ‘instant’ food products like Kraft Dinner (pasta with a powder that still requires mixing with milk while cooking). It seems to represent a food product that households resort to when the budget is lean.
Fresh food (as well as frozen/canned) has optimal nutritional value. Doing your own cooking has sensory and social benefits too.
Whenever people can donate top-quality food to food banks, it helps with people’s overall nutritional status over the longer-term. More donations are being received for the Goldstream Food Bank this week — the Langford ‘Stuff the Trolley’ will continue on Friday December 15 at Westshore Town Centre (4 to 6 pm) and Saturday December 16 at Belmont Secondary School (2 to 6 pm).
It takes an ‘army’ of volunteers to sort donated food items for expiry date… this is nothing new in the realm of food bank management, and it indicates that people often donate less fresh products.
Sorting at the Goldstream Food Bank:
Two entire sea can containers in the parking lot at the Langford Legion hold the contents of incoming donations from the community. As space allows, the contents are relocated into the basement of the Legion for sorting (expiry date, food category, etc).
The overflow of sorted non-perishable food is considerable, filling another sea can container alongside the Legion building — all sorted by food type. That container is heated and temperature controlled. Food items might remain for months for use back into the hamper-packing process when required.
The Legion owns the temporary holding containers, and the food bank owns the overflow container.
Christmas hamper day:
About 740 households pre-registered to receive Christmas hampers. Donations from the community and plenty of pre-sorting led up to today, where people arrived at the Legion parking lot on Station Avenue to collect their hampers. The lineups were long, recipients quietly waiting their turn.
Volunteer organizers have said in various food bank interviews with Island Social Trends over the last couple of years that people break into tears the first time they come to receive a hamper. These are hard times.
One volunteer organizer today — Mark, a military retiree — said that he sees the cost of housing as a key factor in the financial struggle for people these days, as well as immigration pushing hard on housing availability.
Push of inflation:
The push of inflation over the past 20+ months has impacted workplaces and families, everyone is having to cut back. This has a ripple effect onto people’s household budgets.
After paying for increased housing (mortgage/rent) costs, households are often finding themselves having to cut back on other things including groceries.
Businesses are pressured by the increased costs of borrowing (lines of credit, loans, etc), which puts a pinch on other aspects of the business, including staffing levels.
The Bank of Canada governor will be delivering a monetary update to media on Friday December 15.
Pushing the carts:
Langford firefighters were on hand to push the heavy carts containing hampers up the ramp from the lower-level food bank up to the parking lot for recipients to put into their vehicles. Various community groups come to help with that at the food bank.
Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said “we’re down a man this year”, saying how the late Assistant Fire Chief Lance Caven was part of the firefighter volunteer team on Christmas hamper day. It was a tradition that Caven started about nine years ago. Every time Caven is mentioned people get both sad and happy — a continuing testament to the man whose presence in Langford was synonymous with community.
The cost of storage & management:
Some communities have received considerable grants for food bank storage.
Back in May, the food bank in Nanaimo received a $7 million grant to upgrade their warehouse facilities.
In August another $15 million was issued toward supporting food banks in BC, with the funds issued directly to Food Banks BC. It’s to help “people struggling to put food on the table”, said Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Sheila Malcolmson.
Politics of food costs:
There is no lack of food production in Canada. Grocery stores are making record profits and retail food waste is now frequently re-routed by food rescue groups to food production facilities, food banks and social distribution networks.
Last week Premier David Eby ventured to say that products like Kraft Dinner (macaroni accompanied in a box with a cheese-like powder mix) are ‘nutritionally debatable’, while noting that “families are struggling right now” and that “people are on the edge right now,” he said, referring to the upward momentum of the daily cost of life.
This year the Langford-Juan de Fuca constituency holiday season open house marketing has not heavily promoted a request to bring non-perishable food items for the local food bank. “We are politely asking that people an item if they can,” said a rep from Ravi Parmar, MLA’s constituency office. [Parmar’s open house is open to the community, on Thursday December 14 from 5 to 7 pm | Events calendar]