Samaritan House Ministries saw an alarming increase in the number of food hampers they gave out last year.
The downtown Brandon food bank averages 24,000 food hampers in any given year. The pandemic created fluctuations in those numbers, however in 2022 they were back to their normal average of 24,000 hampers.
What's astonishing is in 2023 Samaritan House saw an astounding increase of just under 12,000 food hampers, and this was from just their food bank. Food banks across the country have seen this trend and it's not slowing down any time soon.
"2023 was an amazing year in a lot of ways, but also startling," shares Executive Director, Barbara McNish.
"We had 1,052 new people use the food bank last year who have never used it before, or were returning after years of not using it," she says. "Before 2019 we were serving about 24,000 hampers in a year. And then of course, Covid hit, and we were down, and then the province helped with the nutrition, so our numbers went up if we include the hampers dealing with nutrition. So that went anywhere from 25,000-28,000 if you include the nutrition hampers."
"In 2022 it went back down to 24,000 which would be our normal," states McNish. "Last year, for 2023 we served 35,967 hampers to people. That was a great increase and that is alarming!"
"And when you see the staggering numbers that are coming new or renewed, plus those who are already existing," she adds, "you can see that people are in need."
"But the other side of that is that the donors are so supportive!" she adds.
Government subsidies and grants have been a massive help to keep up with the thousands that come through their food bank doors. But Samaritan House supporters continue to give, both monetarily and through food items; non-perishables, and garden-fresh vegetables and fruits.
"I just want to recognize the fact that people are recognizing that people are hungry, they care about whether people have a place to stay. They really care about helping others!" shares McNish. "And I say thank you!"