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Demand for food doubles in three years at Central Okanagan food banks

A food bank worker picks items from a shelf in this file photo.

The McDougall Creek wildfire added to the need to keep shelves stocked at food banks in the Central Okanagan as they head into their busiest time of the year.

During the first two weeks of the crisis, the food banks provided snacks at the emergency centres and handed out 1,100 food baskets to evacuees who had access to kitchens.

That came at a time when the number of people using the Kelowna and West Kelowna food banks had doubled in the three years since CEO Trevor Moss arrived. Since January, he estimates the client base has grown by 20% to between 6,500 to 7,000 individuals.

“Before the fires, it was well known that, in reference to inflation, in reference to the economy, more and more people are using food banks simply because the bite of inflation is there,” Moss told

He’s seeing more working families – especially those with two adults and two children – coming in for help.

The fires didn’t just impact evacuated residents.

READ MORE: Angry McDougall Creek wildfire evacuees give local MLA an earful

“September is usually our second highest month so we’re expecting a very busy month coming off the fires,” Moss said. “The other thing we’re seeing right now is the hospitality industry. It was also shut down over the last three weeks. That is something we learned from the floods a few years ago. That impacts people too.”

Back to school means parents have to buy clothes and school supplies for their children, stretching already tight budgets.

“The two top reasons why people are coming to the food bank, that we’re hearing from our clients; number one is cost of living, whether that is housing or rentals,” Moss said. “The other part of it is the inflation piece in reference to food costs.

“Year of year over, in the last two years, food costs have gone up anywhere from 20 to 25% and that has not gone down. It’s not, maybe, going up in the last two months but it’s not going down.”

READ MORE: City of Kelowna workers get 12% raise over next two years

The good news is that despite the growing need the food banks have been keeping up with demand.

“Over the last few months, the community has always been able to rise to the occasion and been able to support us so we’re very thankful for that,” Moss said.

This is also the time of year when people share their garden surpluses, whether that be apples, broccoli or zucchinis.

“It’s loved by our clients because it’s fresh produce,” Moss said. “As soon as it’s donated, it usually goes out that day or the next day. It’s a tangible thing from the community.”

And even small donations help.

“Some people drop off a plastic bag or they may bring in four boxes,” Moss said. “It’s similar to when we’re doing our food drives. Whether it’s one can of beans or whether it’s 10, it all matters.”

People can always donate online, here, where they have an option to provide regular monthly contributions.

The next big push is the BC Thanksgiving Food Drive, which is called the Fall Food Drive in Kamloops.

Paper bags will be distributed by mail and the full bags can be put out for collection as of 9 a.m. on Sept. 23.

Then, on Sept. 28 to 30, the Central Okanagan Food Banks have a Cram the Can event seeking donations at the five Save-On-Food stores in the region.

The Kamloops Food Bank has a Drive-Thru Breakfast on Friday, Sept. 15 from 7 to 9 a.m. at Cascades Casino.

Kamloops Food Bank executive director Bernadette Siracky did not respond to requests for an interview from but there is more information on the food bank here.

For a list of food banks throughout the province go to Food Banks BC, here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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