Volunteers Jean Harris, Roger Tibbetts, Anna Corbett, Greta Wilson and Eleanor Gidney during an open house at the Digby food bank.
By Eric Bourque
While many see Christmas as a time of giving and sharing, those involved in food banks hope that spirit of generosity won’t dry up now that the holidays are over.
Locally and provincially, the message is that food banks provide an important service well before and well after the holiday season.
“The need’s been growing,” said Roger Tibbetts, president of the Digby and Area Food Bank. “The last couple of years there’s been an increase in the usage (of the food bank).”
Referring to the winter months and beyond, he said the food bank will continue to require support.
“We try to stockpile and buy stuff on sale to carry us through and so far we’ve always met our needs, but it’s an ongoing thing,” he said.
Digby’s food bank has about 250 families on its client list.
Tibbetts thanks the community for its support of the food bank.
“We’ve been very blessed, very fortunate,” he said. “People are very generous. They know the need.”
Support for the food bank mostly comes from the local area, but it can also come from outside. Tibbetts cited a recent donation of 50 turkeys from Street Connection in Upper Tantallon.
“That was awesome,” he said. “They help food banks throughout the province.”
Like Tibbetts, Andy Elliot, president of the Weymouth Area Food Bank, says the need to help people is pretty much year-round. Winter months, in particular, are challenging for many.
Giving people a hand through the food bank can help free up money that they can put towards their heating costs, said Elliot.
Weymouth’s food bank gets most of its food from Feed Nova Scotia, but Elliot also acknowledges support from the local community.
“We really appreciate that, too,” he said. “Some churches have a box at the back that’s there all the time and they encourage people to leave items in it.
“I think a lot of the service groups and organizations do keep the food bank in mind.”
If there’s one thing the food bank could use, Elliot says, it would be more donations of money to purchase things it doesn’t get from Feed Nova Scotia. such as eggs and meats.
Dianne Swinemar, executive director of Feed Nova Scotia, says the peak activity period for donations is usually around the Christmas season, but she agrees the need goes well beyond the holiday season, particularly during the winter, given the cost of keeping warm at this time of year.
“It’s a lot of food and a lot of money that comes in (around Christmas),” she said, “and our job is to try and make it last as long as possible and then also to capture the attention of the community during those dark winter months and say if there’s any way you can help us, please do so.”
Digby’s food bank is open three times a month, and the Weymouth one once a month.
Just as food banks benefit from community support when it comes to stocking shelves, they also depend on the community to operate.
The food bank in Digby being a good example, Tibbetts says. “It’s all volunteers,” he said. “They do all the work.”