Next month, the Whitehorse Food Bank will be canvassing residents for donations during its spring food drive.
“It’s always a slow time for the food bank when it comes to donations,” said Whitehorse Food Bank Society executive director Stephen Dunbar-Edge. “The people in Whitehorse are very generous, but our demand by far outweighs the amount of food that’s donated.”
When the food bank opened two years ago, it was projected it would be serving 250 clients. Today, it is serving more than twice that.
With each client representing on average 2.4 people, there are about 1,300 people who depend on the food bank every month.
People like Ted Kozub.
“I never thought I’d be using a place like this, but thank God it’s here,” said Kozub.
The former cook was used to making hundreds of dollars a day working in mining camps, but in the last few years he’s fallen on hard times because of medical problems.
“I was a stone’s throw away from being homeless,” he said.
Admitting that you need this kind of help is “tough,” said Kozub, who usually shows up early to avoid the crowds in the afternoon.
“I don’t really want people to see me here,” he said.
Kozub’s hoping to find some work in a camp this summer, and once he’s back on his feet he’d like to come back and work as a volunteer.
“Nobody’s thinking about the hungry,” he said. “Without this place there would be a lot of starving people out there.”
With a booming resource sector, the Yukon has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. But not everyone is seeing the benefits of the strong economy.
“The single mother paying an extremely high rent can’t go out to a camp and take advantage of that,” said Dunbar-Edge. “We also have the people who are underemployed.
“I know we have clients that may have up to two jobs, but still can’t make ends meet with their family.”
For three days, starting on May 2, the food bank, along with 14 churches and other organizations will be dropping off bags to every household in the city.
The hope is that they will be returned full of food.
“We always need just about everything,” said Dunbar-Edge. “For the sake of getting a message across, I would say we need the same things you would need to feed your family in a healthy manner.”
The food bank’s goal, by the end of the three-day drive, is to have enough food to last for a few months.
“Make no mistake, that’s really fantastic,” said Dunbar-Edge. “Especially when I consider how much it costs me to buy food.”
With donations by individuals accounting for only four per cent of the food bank’s stock, shipping food in from the South and buying it locally is an expensive necessity.
The food bank gets no ongoing funding from the government, and with demand increasing the board is looking at other ways to raise money privately.
“The goal of the food bank is to become sustainable,” said Dunbar-Edge. “But on our current trend we will not make it.
“We have to change, and that’s what we’re working towards.”
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