The number of children — or what he calls “innocent victims” — relying on food banks hits home the hardest with Brent Palmer.
B.C. food banks are helping 96,000 people each month, about 30 per cent of them children, says Palmer, who heads the Mustard Seed initiative and has been involved in the field for 30 years.
Palmer was speaking Thursday at a Victoria event to promote a campaign designed to revamp the provincewide B.C. Sharing program that makes it easy for consumers to donate to food banks.
In the past, struggling individuals and the homeless may have relied on food banks, but now entire families, including children, need the help, too, said Palmer. The Mustard Seed supports about 7,000 people monthly.
“It’s people like us. It’s our neighbours that could be going through a very, very tough time, you wouldn’t know it,” Palmer said.
“B.C. Sharing has been a vital fundraiser for food banks in British Columbia since 1997. However, in recent years donations have declined significantly.”
The B.C. Sharing program places donation coupons at store checkouts to encourage shoppers to add a $2 donation to their food bill. The coupons have been redesigned to help recapture the attention of shoppers with compelling stories about the people who use the food banks.
Goldstream Food Bank’s Gayle Ireland joined Palmer on Thursday at the Mustard Seed headquarters on Queens Avenue for the local introduction of revitalized program. Ireland said the program has been crucial for her organization over the years.
Palmer and Ireland said the success of the provincewide program in the Victoria area depends on participation by grocers, including Thrifty Foods, Save-on-Foods, Tru Value Foods and Country Grocer.
“It just thrills me to see the support we have from supermarket owners in the city, just unbelievable,” Palmer said. “I think there’s a very strong partnership here in Victoria.”
The $2 donations add up and make a big difference, Palmer said. The stores involved multiply the effect of the donations by giving special consideration to food banks when they purchase supplies, he said.
Palmer said that when he started as a board member of Food Banks Canada in the 1980s, the goal was to create food banks that could eventually be shut down as society’s needs were met. It isn’t about to happen, he said.
“That means we have an awful duty of making sure that nobody goes hungry.”
He said poverty and hunger are “community problems” that food banks need help from the public to tackle.