High demand for assistance has the WCS food bank running low on that most ubiquitous of staples, peanut butter. In fact, the agency last week put out a call to the public to help restock the shelves.
When Food bank coordinator Lisa Martin put out that call, there were just two jars of the stuff kicking around.
Given the state of the economy, especially food inflation, Woolwich Community Services has seen an increase in individuals and households using its services, said Martin, noting peanut butter is an item that most people ask for in their hampers.
“We’ve run short this year, and we’re thinking it’s more or less because the cost of everything has gone up. It is more expensive to purchase.”
Peanut butter is a staple of the food bank. It can provide many meals and go farther, said Martin. She says practically every hamper sent out has a jar of peanut butter in it.
She said the call for more peanut butter was put out on social media, and by the next day already people had brought some in.
“Literally the next day people were coming in. And it was really cool, because we’ve had companies where people, guys have just collected money from co-workers and have gone out and bought a pile of peanut butter. It’s been great. It’s really neat to see businesses working together to support and then there’s been individuals that have done it. Some kids have brought in peanut butter. It’s been super support. It’s great to watch the community get involved.”
In less than a week, the food bank received over 100 jars of peanut butter, Martin estimates, enough to last about a month. More is still needed.
Martin says the usage of the food bank has definitely increased.
Between March and April, the number of food hampers has increased by 40 per cent over the year before, and that as the months go on, the number of hampers going out is increasing, Martin estimates.
Kathy and Ray Bauman volunteer at the Woolwich food bank on Tuesdays helping to sort and stock the shelves, as well as pack hampers and any other needed tasks.
“I’m retired, I have time on my hands to give back to the community. And I guess I was raised to help others,” said Ray.
“I find it so gratifying to see donations from the community helping other community members. And so I can be part of that. And facilitating packing hampers or sorting food, it feels like I’m helping,” said Kathy.
Both agree peanut butter is an important staple for the food bank.
“If some kid is hungry, it’s something you can grab and [say], ‘here.’ A piece of bread, and a little bit of honey,” said Ray.
“Or jam if we have it,” added Kathy.
“I think the food value for one thing, and it’s well-liked by children. So food value, meaning the protein, a source of protein,” said Kathy.
Most of the donations for the year start coming around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so supplies can start to run out as the year continues.
While it’s common for other items to be out at the food bank, Martin says she’s never seen the food bank run out of peanut butter.
Ray and Kathy have seen firsthand how the usage of the food bank has increased, even since they started volunteering about a year ago.
“This year I noticed, this spring, early summer, I noticed our supply of food is going down quicker than it did a year ago,” said Ray.
Besides peanut butter, Martin says the other top items needed at the food bank right now include canned salmon and meat such as turkey, ham and chicken, crackers, apple juice, jam, Cheese Whiz, ketchup, mustard, mayo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, shampoo and dish soap. Woolwich Community Services staff update a list of the most-needed items on their website.
Martin says it’s because of the especially supportive community that the food bank is continuing to run.
“If it wasn’t for our community, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Let’s put it that way, a very supportive community that really steps up when we ask for items and supports us,” Martin said.
She says the food bank hands out 6,500 to 6,800 items each month. That includes everything people need each week, including grocery staples, toiletries, toilet paper, tooth brushes, baby food, diapers and the like.
“When people do use the food bank, it is a shop. It’s to help them for three to four days just to get through,” said Martin.
“When I think of Elmira, I think of a community that seems to be pretty well off, but not everybody is. And so I guess it’s eye-opening to see that the food bank is needed as much as it is,” said Kathy.
“I guess when you do your weekly shopping, really take it to heart when you see that little green tag ‘Item Needed’ for the food bank. Hopefully it rings a bell and you pick one off the shelf and put it in the donation box,” said Ray.