Foodbank shortages have been a consistent problem since the start of the pandemic several years ago, but it's been especially difficult now, according to a recent HungerCount survey. Alberta is seeing the highest foodbank usage in the country, and had a 34% increase in foodbank access compared to last year. Of the users, 48% are children (around 58 000), while 1/5 are employed.

The shortage is being felt in our community as well; Executive Director of the Wheatland County Foodbank Lynette Aschenbrenner said they've seen a 25% increase in usage compared to last year, as they handed out 812 hampers this year compared to around 650 last year. 

Despite this, Aschenbrenner says the community support has been so strong that they've been able to keep their important service running.

"We go through a lot of food, but we have a lot of local supports. The grocery stores support us really well. We are always able to keep up with with the demands, over the years we've had tremendous community supports and still do, so our shelves are never bare," she said.

Quite recently we've seen tremendous support, including people like Chelsea Solloway and her family, who ran a haunted maze for Halloween for free, but asked people to bring donations if able. Solloway said the maze was able to raise $1251.90 worth of food, as well as $127 in cash. She added the Deen family, Kelly family, and Collins family also played a big role in helping make the event a success. Aschenbrenner added other groups and people also work hard to keep supporting the food bank.

"When it comes to the the schools and stuff, whenever there's a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Halloween or Christmas coming, lots of the schools with these food drives are huge for us. We just got one at Thanksgiving from Holy Cross Collegiate who did a big food drive. There's people like Emma Moore, who do a personal hygiene drive, but every single one, no matter how big or small the food drive is, helps us help our clients. So every one of them means a lot to us."

As for how the foodbank itself works, Aschenbrenner explained they have an application process for anybody who needs help, but they also have a "Bread and Extras" program, which is a drop in program with no appointment necessary where they share whatever extras they have. Around 1400 households were helped through this program, while around 2400 were helped through hampers. As for what exactly a hamper is, Aschenbrenner explained a hamper will give somebody approximately 10 days worth of emergency food, but hampers are suited for specific situations so there isn't really a generalization. For example, a hamper for a family would be considerably different than a hamper for one.

If you need the foodbank, Aschenbrenner asks that you make an appointment by phoning them at 403-324-4335 for hampers, and their Bread and Extras program is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings from 9:00-10:30 AM.

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