The Owen Sound Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive has seen an “unprecedented” drop in the amount of food collected this year.
During the drive, which wrapped up Monday, under 10,000 pounds of food was collected, well below the organization’s goal of 28,000 pounds.
“It is probably an unprecedented drop for us,” Alice Wannan, the Owen Sound Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator, said Tuesday morning. “Our goal was 28,000 and as of this morning we have hit 9,239.”
Wannan said the final numbers from the drive had been tallied up Tuesday morning and there were not yet any plans on how the Salvation Army intends to make up the shortfall.
Consistently high demand has the Owen Sound Salvation Army Food Bank hoping for a strong Thanksgiving Food Drive.
“We are certainly at the lowest point we have ever seen our food shelves at,” said Alice Wannan, the Owen Sound Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator. “Primarily that is because numbers did not drop during the summer. Normally we see a decline in the number of families that use the food bank during the summer and we did not experience that at all.”
The Salvation Army branch is kicking off its 27th annual Thanksgiving Food Drive on Friday. The drive runs until Oct. 14, when organizers hope to collect about 28,000 pounds of food.
Wannan said the shelves were virtually bare prior to this past Saturday when a stuff the ambulance event was held at Zehrs where about 1,500 pounds of food and over $400 in cash donations was collected.
In Owen Sound in the month of August, the Salvation Army assisted 667 individuals with food , of which 168 were under the age of 18, which works out to almost $38,000 worth of food given to families during the month.
“It’s a staggering number when you think of that,” said Wannan. “As a Salvation Army we would not be able to do that without the community support.”
Wannan said the need is slightly higher than last year, but it is the consistency of the need that is depleting the Salvation Army’s supplies.
“Normally we have different times of the year where it seems to let up and we have a bit of a lull in the numbers where it kind of lets us build up our food supplies,” said Wannan. “We just have not seen that. Numbers consistently seem to be from 650 to where we have had up to 745 individuals in a month.”
Wannan attributes the need to the higher cost of living people are experiencing.
“The rents. the heats and hydros, the cost of kids going to school, are what we are consistently hearing from families are impacting their abilities to put money away for food,” said Wannan.
The organization depends on the Thanksgiving Food Drive to get its shelved stocked for the busy holiday season and carries the food bank through most of the year.
“The Thanksgiving Food Drive is the only food drive the Salvation Army runs throughout the year,” said Wannan.
This year marks the first year where the Salvation Army will not be distributing paper bags through the newspaper. This year the organization has opted to make people aware of the food drive drive through a pamphlet that will be included in the weekly store flyer package.
“We wanted to make that transition to be a little more environmentally friendly,” said Wannan. “We have been sending out approximately 13,000 bags every year. We get a good number of those back, but we certainly understand there are a lot that aren’t coming back and are probably going to the landfill site.”
Wannan said the pamphlets are also more cost effective and they can be kept and posted on peoples’ fridge as a reminder. The pamphlet includes details about where food can be dropped off and the items most needed, including peanut butter, Kraft Dinner, juice, canned beans and pasta and soup. The pamphlets are also being distributed by local churches and schools.
“By the beginning of our Thanksgiving campaign we hope to have about 20,000 of them out,” said Wannan. “We are hoping to get the word out to more people in the community, we just won’t be using the paper bags.”
People can drop off food at local grocery stores, businesses and churches during the duration of the food drive. On Oct. 10 and 11 there will be a Thrifty truck in the Zehrs parking lot where food can be dropped off. The truck will be in the Bayshore Broadcasting parking lot on Oct. 12.