As teams in the annual Mayor’s Christmas Food Drive rush the isles and pack their carts in a fun event, the cause they’re participating for remains critical.
Despite the worst of the economic downturn being over, Calgary Food Bank CEO James McAra doesn’t expect the current peak demand to slow anytime soon.
“Until 2018-mid, maybe later,” he said.
During the first quarter of 2017, the bank experienced three to four per cent increases in client demand, down from the 24 per cent increases in the same quarter of 2016.
There hasn’t been much of a significant difference in terms of need since then, bouncing one to two per cent in either direction.
“We’re not seeing the same family over and over again, we’re seeing different families,” McAra said.
This past summer, a student volunteering with the bank developed a formula that projects demand based on population growth, migration patterns and employment.
“His work has been pivotal to go back and say yes, this change, this is what happened,” McAra said. “We now have better and stronger indicators that if this happens, we need to be ready for this, if that happens, we need to be ready for that.”
Based on those findings, the bank anticipates demand to continue well into the new year.
“Right now peak demand is where we have to continue to operate, we don’t have the ability to say, ‘oh we can cut off now and we’ll all be good,’ because we won’t,” McAra said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s seen significant demand at the food bank in good times and bad.
“But it’s gone up even more in these bad times, the good news is that we as a community have been able to respond to it, that people are not going hungry because the food bank is there, but we’re only there because of the tremendous generosity of Calgarians,” Nenshi said.
He also revealed the Food Bank is part of his bet with Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson for the CFL West Final.
The losing mayor will have to donate five pounds of food for every point the winning team scores.
McAra echoed Nenshi’s thoughts about generosity.
“Calgarians are amazing,” he said. “We are never ever shocked that somebody would come by and say you know what, I needed you and I want to support you now because it’s not somebody who is the typical ‘those people.'”
“It’s you, it’s me, it’s our neighbours.”