The pressure on the Estevan and area food bank continues to mount on an almost daily basis according to those who are managing the service.
“It’s not like before when people lost a job here they moved to Alberta. There aren’t any jobs there either, so they’re staying,” said Ronza Reynard, administrative manager for the Salvation Army which operates the food bank in the Energy City.
“The unemployment cheque period is running out, or has run out, so some families are having to switch to other social assistance programs to find help. Maybe in the past, if one family member lost a job, the other adult could keep things going with a full-time job but now some are down to part-time jobs, or both have lost jobs and they are needing help,” said Reynard.
The number of families using the food bank has increased over the past few weeks, she suggested, noting that in the past, it was mainly individuals who would use the food bank to help them top off their nutritional needs. Now there are more family compacts with children.
Naturally, a great deal of the unemployment pressure is coming from the still-depressed conditions in the oilpatch that has been in a state of suspension for over two years, thanks to the downward slide in oil prices on the international market.
“Even the careful people, those who had managed to build up a savings account, have seen that disappear because the oilpatch has been down for so long,” she added. “Even the best money managers didn’t have that kind of financial support behind them.”
Reynard was speaking with the Mercury shortly after the food bank received a quick shot in the arm from the Estevan Knights of Columbus who were topping off their nearly $5,500 donation with a further $500 from their head office.
“We’ll use this money wherever the food needs are most pressing,” said Major Wilfred Harbin of the Salvation Army in accepting the final K of C installment.
“Just before Christmas you saw these shelves filled; you can see now, it’s getting scarce,” he said, sweeping his arm toward the three-quarter empty food bank shelves.
“I would say the demand for food bank goods is up 60 to 65 per cent from last year and that was up quite a bit from 2014,” said Reynard. “And, I don’t see a slowdown in need anytime soon. We are now dealing with a new normal, I suppose.”