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More than 1,000 Central Okanagan seniors relying on food bank this Christmas

A truck unloading essential items at the Central Okanagan Food Bank in Kelowna.

The Central Okanagan Food Bank will serve more people this Christmas than it did during this summers's record-breaking wildfires, including 1,000 local seniors.

Trevor Moss, CEO of the Central Okanagan Food Bank, told they recently served two senior couples, who were forced to live in a shared accommodation between the four of them just to keep up with rising rent prices.

“They're in their 70s and they've all signed up for assistance because of the cost of living,” Moss said. “What you're seeing is people are struggling with the cost of living, so they're having to be creative, unfortunately, to survive.”

Since January, there has been a 32% increase in people accessing the food bank, Moss said.

“And then there's been a steep rise in the needs since September. To the point where we will serve more people this Christmas than we did even during the wildfire crisis,” he said.

There are currently more than 7,400 individuals registered to receive a Christmas hampers from the food bank this holiday season. However, the organization is still expecting another thousand to sign up in the coming days.

Over 1,000 seniors will also be accessing the holiday hamper. Most of them are coming to the food bank as a result of inflation and from a lack of discretionary income.

“On Friday, we just had a 91-year-old woman come into the food bank for the first time because she just simply cannot make it because her rent is so high,” Moss said. “I think for someone that's 91, she shouldn't have to do that. For the first time in her life, she came into the food bank... she said simply, I just won't have the money in my account.”

In October, the food bank served a record number of residents for Thanksgiving weekend. Since then, the numbers have only increased.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan food bank serves record numbers this Thanksgiving

“We're still serving families right now that are displaced from the wildfires,” Moss said. “And some of those families will be coming in and accepting a Christmas hamper.”

According to Moss, the main reason for this is the constantly increasing rate of general inflation. Thirty per cent of the food bank’s clientele are also paying higher than average shelter costs, leaving them vulnerable to financial hardship.

One client, a woman named Karen, was forced to seek assistance from the food bank after becoming a full-time carer for her terminally ill mother.

“Despite the emotional tolls, she's devoted herself to her family by caring for her mother until her death and worked tirelessly to ensure her father with Alzheimer's had a place in a long-term care home,” Moss explained. “The food bank has become an essential support system for Karen… after picking up her hamper, she realized that it's helped her in her emotional well-being and from the trauma she's experienced with the passing of her mom.”

This Christmas, the food bank will be running a Set the Holiday Table campaign which aims to provide 3,500 to 3,600 households with a holiday hamper.

However, due to the rising cost of living, food drives have been down by 50%, Moss said, but the food bank still aims to meet its ambitious targets. 

Although donations are one way to give, willing participants can also volunteer their time to build Christmas hampers.

To find out more about the Central Okanagan Food Bank follow the link here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Georgina Whitehouse or call 250-864-7494 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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