VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Greater Vancouver Food Bank has seen fewer people at its distribution centres since the start of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean demand for its services is disappearing.
With foot traffic down, the food bank has started delivering groceries to people too at-risk to leave home.
“We have seen about a 35 per cent drop in foot traffic to our distribution locations, which we believe is related to concerns around self-isolating for the elderly and immune-comprised people we serve,” said Cynthia Boulter, food bank chief operating officer.
The food bank has also seen a seven- to eight-per-cent drop in the number of seniors it serves.
“However, we have been distributing thousands of grocery bags each week to our neighbourhood partners, which essentially speaks to the drop in onsite attendance and brings our overall distribution numbers back up to the levels we saw pre-COVID,” Boulter added.
She said the food bank is also working with Emergency Relief Services of Vancouver to get food to clients who are self-isolating or are unable to get out.
She also pointed to signs that demand for food bank distributions has yet to peak.
Thank you to @GenusCap Management for their generous $25,000 gift!
— Greater Vancouver Food Bank (@VanFoodBank) June 10, 2020
“We are starting to see more clients come back, but we are seeing more new clients than we have before, and that is a trend that is also happening across the country,” she added.
The food bank has seen a 20 per cent increase in new clients registering during the pandemic. Of those, 80 per cent site COVID-19 related job loss as the reason for their visit, she said.
“We believe the peak of demand is yet to come, probably in the next three to six months, and that we will weathering the impacts of this pandemic for, honestly, probably a couple of years.”
Demand could increase, she said once federal aid payments, such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, are discontinued.
“We do believe that in many cases, CERB is allowing people to purchase groceries, and that when these short term benefits run out, we will see an influx of clients needing our support.”
Meanwhile, the food bank is seeing a wealth of food donations from industry.
Boulter said due to a bounty of fresh food donations, the food bank recently opened its Winston Street location in Burnaby for a week when it is usually closed to distribute only fresh items. The next “Warehouse Week” is June 23-26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.