‘Every little bit counts’: Annapolis Valley, N.S., food banks grateful for community support as need for service rises



WINDSOR, NS — The “mushing Mountie” and two of his sidekicks, Ace and Karma, helped draw attention to a food bank fundraiser held earlier this month in Windsor — and the result was one of the local RCMP’s most successful food drives ever.

const. Richard Collins, of the West Hants District RCMP detachment, brought two of his huskies with him in hopes of enticing people to stop by the annual stuff a cruiser initiative.

By the end of the event on Dec. 3, the vehicle was packed with food donations and more than $900 was donated to the Matthew 25 Windsor and District Food Bank.

“It’s great to help those that are less fortunate. The food bank provides a necessary service all year long,” said Collins of why he was involved.

Volunteers with the food bank and Victim Services were also on hand for the event.

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Collins described the response from the community as “awesome” and said he enjoys supporting such a worthy cause.

“Everybody likes to help out at Christmas so that the people that need it, they can have Christmas and enjoy the holiday as well,” he said.

Ashley Hingley, the primary co-ordinator for the Matthew 25 Windsor and District Food Bank, thanked the community for their outpouring of support for the event.

“I think we got more groceries than we did last year.”

With the increased demand for services this year, Hingley said every food drive is appreciated.

Hingley said the food bank has seen a steady increase in people requiring the service.

“It’s definitely greater than last year. We’re still getting new clients in weekly,” she said.

Hingley said she’s noticed an increase in homeless people seeking help, and more senior citizens than ever before are turning to the food bank.

A common denominator that many of the new clients are citing is the increased cost of living — from higher grocery prices to home heating bills and rent.

For seniors, Hingley said it’s been particularly challenging as there hasn’t been a substantial increase to old age pension — meaning many people are barely scraping by.

“With winter coming, they have to choose between food and heat and lights,” Hingley said of the situation hundreds of people in West Hants find themselves in. She said at least they know they can receive some food if they ask for help.

For Christmas, the food bank provides a hamper with all the Christmas fixings and small gifts for the individuals and families that don’t qualify for aid via Hants County Christmas Angels. Hingley said they’re preparing at least 250 hampers this holiday.

“Right now, we’re still looking for gifts — even like a bar of soap, stuff like that — for our senior and single gifts,” said Hingley.

She said she understands people have been hard hit with inflation, and the volunteers are thankful for anything that gets donated.

“I mean every little bit counts,” said Hingley. “It doesn’t matter how big or small at this moment.”

Even adding a can of soup to your grocery order and donating it goes a long way, Hingley said.

“We understand that a lot of people are under pressure and have their own families, so we are truly grateful for all the support that we get from companies and individuals.”

Matthew 25 Windsor and District Food Bank volunteers don't like to throw anything away but some items, like instant powdered drinks for example, tend to end up being composted as clients don't seem to want to consume them.  - Carole Morris-Underhill
Matthew 25 Windsor and District Food Bank volunteers don’t like to throw anything away but some items, like instant powdered drinks for example, tend to end up being composted as clients don’t seem to want to consume them. – Carole Morris-Underhill

Support appreciated

Gordon Joice, the chairman of the Wolfville Area Food Bank management committee, has been helping the food bank for the past six years. He started out as a volunteer driver, then became involved with purchasing fruits and vegetables and meat. Two years ago, he took on his current role. He said he’s noticed an uptick in people seeking help, bringing the levels back to where they were in 2020.

“The need this year is up from last year,” said Joice. “But I say that kind of reservedly because the need last year, based on the average number of families per month, … was down about eight per cent from the year before. So, it’s sort of in tune with previous years to 2021.”

He said they help, on average, 104 families per month.

The Wolfville Area Inter-Church Council (WAIC) opened the food bank in 2007. It’s located at the Wolfville Baptist Church and is run by volunteers.

“The Wolfville Area Inter-Church Council and the Wolfville food bank puts on two food banks a month where we deliver to the families who have registered for help,” he said.

In December, WAIC sponsors a Christmas hamper program that the food bank assists with. Clients that register for the hamper receive either a turkey or chicken and everything required to make a traditional supper.

Joice said, like other food banks, they’re grateful for the support from businesses, organizations, and the community at large.

“We’re kind of lucky in the area. The community is very generous in terms of donations, monetary donations to WAIC, and also sponsoring food drives,” he said, noting Acadia students are quite active with fundraisers throughout the year.

He said with the rising cost of groceries, financial donations to WAIC, with a clear intention for it to be used for the food bank, would be appreciated so they can continue to provide the same service levels.

“I think our budget for food purchases has probably increased this year, somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent,” he said, adding, “So I think monetary donations is probably the most beneficial.”

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