Regina food bank experiences record-high demand due to COVID-19

The Regina Food Bank reached record-high demand last year, making it one of the busiest food banks in the province.

The organization cracked 110,000 points of service, according to CEO John Bailey. That number includes both one-time users and repeat customers.

In a typical year, points of service hover around 80,000, he said.

“From what we’ve seen, this is the largest demand year we’ve ever had by quite a considerable margin,” Bailey said.

He suggests the “dramatic jump” is due to the economic fallout of COVID-19 including the lockdown and layoffs associated with the pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus: Regina Food Bank experiences massive surge, serving over 14,000 monthly

The record demand also came with “significant challenges,” according to Bailey.

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Safety was the number one priority, which meant the food bank shifted to front-door deliveries and drive-thru pick-ups to avoid crowding inside the building.

They also had to find new ways to stock shelves.

“We’ve purchased more food this year than we’ve ever purchased before,” said Bailey, adding that trend will likely continue as pandemic restrictions drag on.

“With no events and none of those big food-raising initiatives, we are limited in the amount of food we can get donated to us.”

Read more: Expect higher prices, not food shortages due to coronavirus pandemic, expert says

By the end of the fiscal year, Bailey estimates the food bank will have spent at least $500,000 on food alone, which is five to six times more than any given year.

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‘We’re not at the finish line’

If the 2008 recession is any indication, Bailey says high demand isn’t going away in the near future. In fact, he warns we could see a sustained increase moving forward.

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“We’re thinking this year is going to be just as busy as last year and probably carrying through for another 12 to 24 months and then we’ll sort of see how things have settled,” he said.

The food bank is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst with contingency plans in place for the months ahead.

“We have contingency plans around things that we know about — like increased demand — so we’re buying food to make sure we’re never going to have to turn folks away,” said Bailey, adding there are already plans to manage any potential COVID-19 outbreaks in the building.

Read more: Saskatchewan government looking to integrate AstraZeneca into province’s vaccination plan

“No food bank wants to be bigger, but every food bank across the province and across the country is preparing to make sure they can get bigger so they can meet the needs.”

Even with COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, the food bank says that won’t change food demand for the foreseeable future.

“We’re not at the finish line,” Bailey said.

“We won’t be at the finish line for quite some time in terms of the need in our community for those facing food insecurity.”

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