Food bank faces familiar challenges

It might be a new year but it’s the same old story for the Whitehorse Food Bank: it needs more food, and more money. For executive director Stephen Dunbar-Edge, it’s getting a little old.

It might be a new year but it’s the same old story for the Whitehorse Food Bank: it needs more food, and more money.

For executive director Stephen Dunbar-Edge, it’s getting a little old.

“This is the same story that I keep saying every year,” he said Monday morning.

Already, he’s had to purchase food from local retailers and wholesalers to make sure there’s enough to feed the approximately 1,300 people who receive food from 306 Alexander St. each month.

January is typically a busier month, he said. People’s fuel costs may be higher, or bills from Christmas expenses may be due. 

Many clients have families to feed. Each one represents, on average, about 2.7 people, said Dunbar-Edge.

A busy day used to mean 85 clients would be served, but so far this year the food bank is serving an average of 100 clients on busy days, he said.

On those days, a clients could wait for up to an hour-and-a-half to receive food, said Dunbar-Edge.

For one week in December, some couldn’t get served at all. The food bank not only ran out of both food, it ran out of money too. That shortfall affected 150 clients, or about 300 people, said Dunbar-Edge.

The food bank’s has run out of money before.

The organization receives no funding from any level of government. 

It’s always “three months away from closing at any time,” said Dunbar-Edge. “Sustainability is our number-one issue,”

It’s not uncommon for food banks across the country to run out of food, he said. In 2012, it happened a couple of times, but on top of the financial challenges there are geographic restraints as well.

Compared to food banks in southern Canada, Whitehorse is “off-grid” when it comes to highways, said Dunbar-Edge.

Here, just re-stocking the shelves is more difficult, he said.

“I can’t hope that some large corporation has a whole bunch of peanut butter or soup is just going to drop it off on my doorstep,” said Dunbar-Edge.

“Unless I specifically bring up the food, it doesn’t appear,” he added. That means the Whitehorse food bank has to maintain close relationships with other food banks. It sometimes gets food shipped up from food banks in Edmonton and Calgary.

The food bank will be doing surveys about its services throughout the year, which Dunbar-Edge said may prompt ideas about how they can expand what they offer.

The results should be ready by the end of March, he said.

The food bank has registered 1,984 clients since it opened in March 2009. People can come once every month to receive a hamper with enough food for three days.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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