For the eleventh consecutive year, Interfaith Food Bank, Lethbridge Food Bank and Salvation Army joined forces to ensure that the less-fortunate members of our community were provided with supplies for a Merry Christmas.
To make the most of our resources and eliminate the duplication of services, our trio of agencies planned and prepared to serve 1800 households for the 2017 Holiday Season, approximately 10% more families in comparison to Christmas 2016, as had been reflected in requests for assistance since the economic downturn earlier in the year. Actual totals reflected a 22% increase in demand.
This past Christmas, a total of 1985 households were provided with food hampers complete with Christmas fixings, and more than 2200 children ages 17 and under received toy bundles so they might have something special under the tree on Christmas morning. Thanks to the support of the community, nearly 5000 individuals were assisted this Christmas, nearly half of whom are children.
Organizers are grateful that the community was able to meet the demand for those who requested help this year, however each of the three organizations had a tougher time in recruiting donations this holiday season. Prior to the Christmas break, Salvation Army was projecting a shortage of approximately $20,000 for their Christmas Kettles, while both local food banks also experienced a shortage in donations of food and funds. Agencies issued a cry for help during the last week of distribution, and were pleased to see many community members step up to help in meeting demand.
Normally, Lethbridge Food Bank, Salvation Army and Interfaith Food Bank receive the bulk of their support during the Christmas season, and a surplus in food and funds is required to meet the demands of the New Year. While food stocks have returned to a more manageable state after the holiday rush, they are expected to deplete quickly. Financial donations were down slightly in 2017 as well, with many charitable organizations reporting shortages and/or expectations of a struggle in 2018 while the economy continues to rebound from the recent slump. To ensure we are able to meet ongoing demands, the community can expect to see each agency continuing to actively recruit donations of food and funds well into the New Year.
Our agencies are committed to moving families past food bank line-ups. Connecting families in need with other local resources allows food bank access to be a temporary solution to food insecurity while families and individuals can address underlying issues such as under-, or unemployment, marriage failure, addictions, illness or injury. On-going demands placed on food banks and social service agencies have continued, however partnerships and cooperation between these agencies is proving to be a successful measure in providing necessary services.
We would like to express our gratitude to the community for assisting us in ensuring that everyone had a chance to have a Merry Christmas. On behalf of our staff, volunteers and the families we serve, we hope you had the happiest of holidays, and we look forward to your on-going support in 2018.