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Samaritan House ‘low’ on food donations

Marcia Wiebe, Program Coordinator at Samaritan House, places apples in a food hamper at the food bank's Pacific Avenue location on Friday afternoon. Fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, kleenex, dairy, bread and meat products are all highly valued donation items for Samaritan House.

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Marcia Wiebe, Program Coordinator at Samaritan House, places apples in a food hamper at the food bank's Pacific Avenue location on Friday afternoon. Fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, kleenex, dairy, bread and meat products are all highly valued donation items for Samaritan House.

Samaritan House Ministries is working "week-to-week" to provide food to those in need during a normally slow time of the year, according to its executive director.

And with the beginning of school fast approaching, the food bank is in need of items for families reliant on the program.

"It’s a time when food supplies are low," Marla Somersall said. "It’s a double whammy for us because there are more families needing it and there’s less food."

Toward the end of summer is typically the time when donations are critically low across the country.

"As people prep for school, we have high demand and low volume of food," she said.

Breakfast programs are in place at many Brandon schools and Somersall said Samaritan House tries to offer food to those programs, but this time of year is tough.

"Our food supply is getting so low, it’s hard to offer that extra support," she said.

"Once we get into the fall, food drives start to pick up again."

At École New Era School, for example, as many as 40 out of the 500 students are estimated to take advantage of its breakfast program on a daily basis — sometimes more, depending on the day.

To bridge the lapse in donations, Somersall said items from food banks in Calgary are being sent this week to the local operation for which Purolator provides free shipping.

Pasta, rice, beans, fruits and vegetables, soup, protein items and baby formula are some of the items the food bank needs the most.

The Samaritan House gave out a record 1,600 food hampers over the summer and of those, about 55 per cent are families with children, Somersall said.

"It’s a high number of people," she said. "We served over 2,000 people this year ... and 48 per cent of those were kids, so it’s high."

In April, the Samaritan House moved out from under the same roof as the Helping Hands Soup Kitchen — a separate organization from the food bank — and into their new location on Pacific Avenue.

The Samaritan House is also a southwest hub for the Manitoba Association of Food Banks, so more food storage is needed to supply various banks in the area through a provincial food sharing system.

"As a hub, we provide food to some of the other food banks if they were in need," Somersall said.

By next fall, the new facility will have a teaching kitchen and a literacy program on site, funded by various grants.

"One of our primary goals is not to keep feeding people, but to help them to be self-sufficient and get the training and the education," she said. "We’re working on job-specific training to help people get into employment or to advance in their employment."

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @grjbruce

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 25, 2014

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