By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

The generally low wages in the Columbia Valley coupled with the typically high cost of living has prompted a surge of people to take refuge in Columbia Valley Food Bank hampers.

There was a 10.6 per cent increase in hampers collected from the Columbia Valley Food Bank between January to June 2015 jumping up from 347 last year to 384.

June of 2015 saw more people assisted than in any other year, except 2010, said Ron Stainthorpe, board chair of the Columbia Valley Food Bank.

It just so happens that the increase in adults is the same, added Mr. Stainthorpe. Between January and June, the number of adults being assisted also increased 10.6 per cent to 647 and children increased 8.5 per cent to 332. The adults, of course, are included in the hamper. It could be two adults included in the hamper, but sometimes there are more.

With the demand for food bank services on the rise Mr. Stainthorpe is urging the community to pay it forward by attending the Home Hardware barbecue fundraiser between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 18th.

There will be bratwurst sausages and European wieners on a bun along with a drink (bottled water or a soft drink) sold for $5. One hundred per cent of the profits will be used to purchase nutritional food for monthly hamper giveaways.

In addition, there will be a collection jar for financial donations and a bin for non-perishable food donations at the barbecue.

Mr. Stainthorpe says the food bank needs canned veggies, fruit, meat, soup, pasta, toilet paper and school snacks the most.

Along with the Canadian statistics, the Columbia Valley Food Bank reported a sharp increase in food distributed during the 2008/2009 recession. The number of people assisted stayed basically the same until 2012. A decrease was reported both locally and Canada-wide in 2013 and 2014 before increasing in 2015.

According to Food Banks Canadas annual HungerCount for 2014, 43 per cent of households receiving food are composed of single unattached individuals; more than one third (37 per cent) of food bank users are children; and 87,533 people asked for help from a food bank for the first time in March.

One fifth are over 50 years of age, said Mr. Stainthorpe.

While there hasnt been discourse about the rapid growth of the demands at the Columbia Valley Food Bank, which serves people from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen, Mr. Stainthorpe believes the lull in the construction and forestry industries has been a factor.

It just seems that the cost of living is fairly high here and we dont have the (development) that we did when the (economy) was booming, he concluded.

The Columbia Valley Food Bank is open Tuesday and Thursday every week between 1 and 2 p.m., as well as 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday each month at a small space in the basement of the Invermere Public Library at 201-7th Ave.

It offers people access to food, safe handling procedures and healthy meal information.

To make a donation or access programming, call the Columbia Valley Food Bank at 250-342-0850.