Christmas hampers pile high as food bank high in demand

Christmas cheer of food, toys and gifts was spread over people in the Stettler area this giving season as many face economic strife during the downturn.

In time for the Christmas – Stettler Christmas Hamper Society packed and distributed 143 hampers for 226 adults and 215 children this week

In time for the Christmas – Stettler Christmas Hamper Society packed and distributed 143 hampers for 226 adults and 215 children this week

Christmas cheer of food, toys and gifts was spread over people in the Stettler area this giving season as many face economic strife during the downturn.

Stettler Christmas Hamper Society distributed 143 hampers for 226 adults and 215 children this week, up from 93 hampers last year.

“The downturn in the economy is certainly playing a key factor in the increase in the number of people applying for Christmas food hampers,” said society president Trish Schwarzenberger.

“For people just getting by, Christmas is a tough time for them.”

While some people may be reluctant to apply for a food hamper, recipients welcome the abundance of food.

“People who receive food hampers are very grateful,” said Schwarzenberger.

“It helps ease the burden of Christmas and getting a hot meal for their family is very important and greatly appreciated.”

This year, many people and families have been hit hard by the economic recession with job losses and financial restraint while the number of homeless people in the community has concerned Stettler and District Family and Community Social Services.

A total of 1,088 applications for employment insurance were filed at the FCSS office from January to the end of November this year, up drastically from 467 in the same period last year.

While the number of hampers has increased significantly, donations remain at the same level as last year, she said.

“Without the support from the community, we wouldn’t be able to provide Christmas hampers to people in need,” said Schwarzenberger.

Accepting cash donations only for food, the Christmas hamper society buys all the food locally.

Besides food, the hampers also include other special gifts for the recipients, such as toys for children.

Serving the community year-round, Stettler and District Food Bank has also seen the demand rise as it distributed an average of 120 hampers per month this year, up significantly from 93 a month last year.

Kathy Willis, executive director of the food bank for the past 12 years, says on average, the food bank provides food to 446 people who for various reasons are unable to manage their own needs.

Stetttler food bank relies on the generosity of citizens, businesses and organizations in the community for donations since provincial and federal funding is not available for food banks.

“Smaller donations certainly help and we hope the community rises to the occasion to continue to support the food bank,” said Willis.

Cash donations help the food bank purchase perishable products such as milk, eggs and meat.

For more information on the food bank, phone Willis at 403-742-4567.