Stigma easing for food bank clients

Before Monday, Oct. 3 the shelves at the Stettler and District Food Bank Society were achingly bare of anything except the absolute...

Before Monday, Oct. 3 the shelves at the Stettler and District Food Bank Society were achingly bare of anything except the absolute essentials, the necessities purchased by the food bank to continue to help its clients even after donations ran out.

Those shelves are now straining under the weight of the generosity of the Stettler community, but with an increased load on the food bank due to the downturn in the economy, and with the start of the school year and hockey season adding extra fees, it won’t be long before the food bank is buying again, warned society president Betty Birch.

While some of the food items will remain on the shelves for months due to less need for them, other food items will barely touch the shelf before they’re gone. Pasta and sauce, canned fruit, and items like coffee and tea are often the first to run out. The food bank doesn’t buy items like coffee and tea, candy or cake mixes, but buying staples like pasta and sauce can quickly drain money from the food bank’s coffers.

“We ran out of some items before Christmas last year,” Birch said. “After Christmas, we were buying food.”

When that happens, Birch and the food bank turn to the monetary donations given throughout the year, using the money to restock the food bank’s shelves.

Poverty a vicious cycle

For many who use the food bank, it’s a choice between rent, starving and asking for help. Turning to the food bank can require a lot of internal courage and bravery, and an acceptance that it’s OK to ask others for help.

“This isn’t a failure,” Birch said, explaining that life can deal out rotten hands at any time.

The emotional wounds of poverty — a feeling of being a failure, of being worthless — can seriously damage a person. But with Alberta’s economy in a rocky patch, Birch feels those feelings are easing up.

“When everyone is doing well, it’s easy to wonder why you’re not,” she said. “When everyone starts having problems, it becomes less painful to be having them yourself.”

Many of the people who come to the food bank give back by volunteering, especially on food drive night when the food comes in quick, filling the foyer of the church.

Most importantly, Birch wants people to know it’s OK to need help.

“Maybe I’ll see you once,” she said. “Maybe I will see you more than that. And either way, it’s OK.”

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