'Supper' heroes wanted at Carbonear food bank amid spike in demand

The Saint Vincent de Paul Carbonear Food Bank is seeing a spike in demand. Staff held a "supper hero" food drive to help meet the need.

'It's never slow,' says staff member

Two people, one wearing a t-shirt featuring a heart-shaped Spiderman logo, stand in front of shelves of food.
Kaitlin Clarke and Abigail Clark say it's becoming harder to keep the Carbonear food bank stocked. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

The bare white shelves at the Saint Vincent de Paul Carbonear Food Bank stand out starkly among the towers of instant oatmeal and bags of rice. Kaitlin Clarke, who's been with the food bank for nearly three years, says it hasn't always been this way.

"At one point, everything in here would last probably six months," Clarke said Thursday. "Right now we're lucky if we can stretch it to a week and a half."

Clarke said the Carbonear food bank, which serves people living within 350 kilometres, is busier than ever — an indicator of the rise in demand for food bank services in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It's never slow," she said.

She said the food bank still gets help from businesses and the community, but donations are down.

"Some people can no longer afford to donate. We've actually seen instances where people who were once donors have now had to turn to us for help," she said.

A largely empty white shelf, with some stacks of canned soup.
Shelves that used to contain staples like canned milk and bread now sit empty, says Clark. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Abigail Clark, a seasonal staff member, said the rise in demand doesn't feel good — and it isn't limited to one demographic. 

"It's everybody. Every type of person."

"We don't want to have to help these people, but we do now — we have to help more people. More and more, every day."

She said the bare shelves are meant to hold items like canned milk, margarine and bread — staples that are becoming harder to obtain as food prices rise.

"Now we're lucky to have one loaf of bread here in the food bank at a time," she said.

Vanquishing hunger

Staff expect the food bank to become even busier as kids head back to school this fall — as they try to afford school supplies, clothes and other necessities for their kids, some parents will struggle to fit food into their budget.

To prepare for that spike in need, food bank summer staff like Shelby Abbott, who's going into Grade 10 this fall, held a "supper hero" food drive carnival on Thursday.

Abbott said it's her first summer at the food bank.

"It was just a really great cause and a great way to spend my summer," she said.

A person wearing sunglasses stands in front of a painted backdrop of a city.
Christine Lynch says she's noticed an increased need in her community. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

While playing mini golf, Jesse, 10, said it was important to support the food bank — but also to have fun at the fair. Jesse said he likes superheroes, and his favourite is Iron Man.

"He can fly, he got lasers coming out of his hands most times and yeah, he's just pretty cool-looking," he explained.

Christine Lynch, who also came out to support the cause, said she's noticed the increased need in her community.

"People just haven't got the money to buy the groceries and that anymore and have enough money left over, especially people who got small children trying to go to school," she said.

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Darrell Roberts is a reporter for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.