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'Pretty much empty': Sask. town's food bank pleads for donations amid record hunger

The Town of Wolseley is pleading for donations for its food bank, which is 'pretty much empty' due to unprecedented need by several families in the community, says Mayor Gerald Hill. (Submitted by Gerald Hill - image credit)
The Town of Wolseley is pleading for donations for its food bank, which is 'pretty much empty' due to unprecedented need by several families in the community, says Mayor Gerald Hill. (Submitted by Gerald Hill - image credit)

A food bank in southeastern Saskatchewan is pleading for donations to help fill its nearly empty cupboards, saying it has never seen so many people in need.

Wolseley Mayor Gerald Hill said the town-funded food bank doesn't have enough to feed its approximately 30 regular clients, who he said are mostly families with young children.

"The amount of food that we have on the shelf right now … if a family came in today, it would be like Mother Hubbard's cupboard. It would be bare," Hill said in an interview Thursday. "We're down on food and we're down on cash."

The food bank is run out of the St. James United Church & C.E. Centre, and provides non-perishable food and approximately $670 worth of monthly vouchers for clients to buy fresh food at the grocery store, Hill said.

He said the rising costs of groceries, gas and rent are pushing low-income people and many "once-middle class" families to use the food bank more and more.

"Their budgets are being stretched and paycheque to paycheque isn't cutting it anymore — like, it's paycheque and then next week we have nothing," he said.

Members of the Wolseley Lions Club purchased approximately $500 worth of food Friday morning to donate to the town's food bank.
Members of the Wolseley Lions Club purchased approximately $500 worth of food Friday morning to donate to the town's food bank.

Members of the Wolseley Lions Club purchased approximately $500 worth of food Friday morning to donate to the town's food bank. (Submitted by Gerald Hill)

Hill said many local groups and businesses have helped out, but the town can't afford to meet the need and also pay for essential services.

"We're only a community of 850 people, so it's a struggle," he said.

Wolseley, located about 100 kilometres east of Regina, is among four finalists competing to be named Hockeyville by Kraft Canada. Hill said the town is hoping to use this weekend's wing night and kids' hockey tournament to secure the title and raise money and non-perishables for the food bank.

Wolseley is one of four finalists for the Kraft Hockeyville competition, and hopes to use a hockey tournament this weekend to raise funds for the food bank.
Wolseley is one of four finalists for the Kraft Hockeyville competition, and hopes to use a hockey tournament this weekend to raise funds for the food bank.

Wolseley is one of four finalists for the Kraft Hockeyville competition, and hopes to use a hockey tournament this weekend to raise funds for the food bank. (Submitted by Gerald Hill)

Hill says anyone who won't attend but wishes to contribute can contact the town office to make a cash donation.

"I'm hoping that we can go from a cupboard that's pretty much empty to a room full of food by the end of the weekend," said Hill.

'Everybody is struggling': Food Banks Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan has seen a sharp increase in food insecurity and nearly one in five residents went hungry at least once in 2021, the sixth-highest rate in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

Food banks in communities across Saskatchewan are seeing record demand, said Food Banks Saskatchewan executive director Michael Kincade.

"Everybody is struggling," Kincade said.

Last March, there were more than 55,000 visits to food banks in the province, nearly double the number in March 2019, according to a report by Food Banks Canada. Approximately 40 per cent of visits were by children, the report said.

Rising costs hit people in smaller communities particularly hard, said both Hill and Kincade, as many people need to pay rising gas costs in order to get to work, or can't afford to travel elsewhere if their local food bank runs out.

"By the time somebody goes to use a food bank, they've already starved. Nobody is excited about having to ask for help or go use a food bank," Kincade said.

"Often, we'll see parents skipping meals so that the kids can have three meals a day."