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Nelson Salvation Army Food bank struggles to keep up with demand

Nelson’s official food bank, which is run through the Salvation Army, has seen a significant increase in demand over the last two years. However, they’ve also experienced a significant decrease in donations due to rising food prices and cost of living. 

Co-ordinator Terry Tiessen says the daily average of food leaving the food bank has nearly tripled from two years ago.  

“We average about 500 pounds of food leaving here per day. That’s about three times what we were doing two years ago. We went from three or four appointments a day to regularly 10-12 appointments a day.  

“That other side of it too is we’re noticing our donations have gone down, not because the generosity of people is waning. It’s just that there’s less around to go around. With both of those things it has been challenging.”  

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The Salvation Army has also seen a significant change in demographics according to Tiessen, who says more students and young families need their services as well as the senior population.  

“Just recently we had a group of international students in needing help. Everywhere we turn people are feeling that pinch of inflation [and] price of living going up. It’s heartbreaking at times to see what is happening around our community.” 

Last week the province announced $15 million for Food Banks B.C. to help local food banks navigate some of the challenges associated with inflation. The funding coincides with the province’s $200 million investment in Food Banks B.C. announced in March to help strengthen food supply and increase the availability of fresh food, promote food production in rural areas and create more regional community food hubs.   

When asked what he thought about the provincial announcement, Tiessen said he appreciates the effort, but doesn’t feel that the $15 million will directly benefit his organization.  

“It is encouraging that the governments are seeing the need and are starting to funnel funds down this avenue but it’s not enough,” he said 

“It feels like a drop in the bucket, but it’s a step in the right direction. We’re not sure now how it will trickle down to us, but it would be nice to fill my shelves again. It’d be great to pick up the school lunch program again too. Just more food here is where I would like to see that money going.”  

Tiessen said the average hamper ranges from 30-50 pounds at $2.87 per pound. With a daily average of 10-12 hampers leaving the center, the organization is providing more than $1,000 worth of food to the community daily.  

The organization has had to brainstorm different ways to lean on the community for help. They will be launching a food drive next month to help prepare for winter, a time when Tiessen says demand is always higher.  

“Being donation-based, we have had struggles trying to find unique ways of tapping into donations. One thing we’re going to do in mid-September is a food drive, and everybody’s helping out where they can get the word out. This could be a tougher winter for a lot of people.   

“So people in the community are going to be hearing from us for the next two weeks, seeing posters around about trying to remind the public that we’re here trying to feed people and get that awareness back up.” 

Tiessen also expressed his appreciation to the bigger chain stores in Nelson for consistently providing his organization with weekly supplies to help the less fortunate.  

“I can’t really say enough about the big stores here. Walmart, Save-On, the Wholesale Club, and Safeway donate as much as they can. Save-On gives us eggs, Wholesale gives us meat, Safeway gives us fresh produce every Friday. They give what they can and it’s so great.” 

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