COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN
Audrey Wrobleski helps move food supplies at Helping Hands soup kitchen, Monday afternoon. Wrobleski has been volunteering at the food bank since it moved to its current location ten years ago.
The number of people relying on the Samaritan House food bank and Helping Hands soup kitchen is on the rise, and both organizations are struggling to keep up with the demand.
Vandana Jamadagni, co-ordinator of Helping Hands soup kitchen, and Helping Hands chairperson Jim Hillis sand by some of the facility's supply shelves, Monday afternoon. (COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN)
The food bank serves about 1,200 households every month. Ten years ago, that number was 750. Around the corner at Helping Hands soup kitchen, between 160 and 200 people are served on a daily basis, Monday to Friday.
"We’re short of all food products," said Jim Hillis, the chair of Helping Hands. "We’re always looking for donations … really looking for meat products now."
Ground beef, pork sausages and canned soup are a few of the items that the soup kitchen is particularly looking for.
"Just any beef, pork or anything … We’re very short," Hillis said. Cash donations are also greatly appreciated.
Sheila Oertel relies on the soup kitchen two or three times per week.
"It helps a lot of people when they’re stuck," Oertel said Tuesday on her way into Helping Hands.
"I’ve met a lot of friends here, there’s great meals."
Oertel said she has noticed a lot more people using the soup kitchen over the past few years.
"Sometimes the lineup is right out the door," she said. "I am totally surprised that there are so many people."
Hearing that the soup kitchen is facing a shortage, Oertel said she is very concerned.
"Food’s going up, rent is going up, it’s just hard to get by," she said. "I’m concerned about a lot of people, plus myself … But especially kids and single parents."
Douglas Kocian comes to the soup kitchen for a hot meal once in a while.
"It’s getting real bad for a lot of people," he said. "They’re starving because they don’t have the money … Rent is unreal. Some people are paying way too much for rent."
Kocian hopes members of the community will step up to help keep the soup kitchen running at full capacity.
"People have to get involved or … people are going to starve," he said.
Samaritan House general manager Marla Somersall said the food bank is also "running low on everything."
"For us the big things are to make sure that we have protein items," she said. "We have almost no vegetables to give out, so if people are wanting to share their garden produce … that would be great."
The food bank is also in great need of canned meat, frozen meat and pasta.
Families in need are able to get a hamper from the food bank every two weeks.
"We have a consistent minimum that we keep in each hamper," Somersall said.
"But any day of the week they can come and pick up some bread, there might be some potatoes here, but otherwise that’s all we have to offer for that two-week period."
Summers are usually quieter, but Somersall said they are almost out of the major food-drive items that usually last until mid-September.
"Being able to plan two or three months ahead is really, really important to make sure we don’t completely run out of food," she said. "That’s kind of where the struggle is, to make sure we have enough of the basics."
Helping Hands and Samaritan House are always looking for more volunteers. Call the food bank at 726-0758 or the soup kitchen at 727-4635 if you’d like to help.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 25, 2012