A Charleswood food bank served more than 60 local families this Christmas, and organizers hope an influx of donations and partnerships with the community will help keep up with the demand, if not lessen it.
"It’s good news, bad news," said Scott Gillingham, pastor of the Grace Community Church, one of the two churches involved in running the food bank.
"It’s good news in that it speaks to the organization of our partnerships, and that (the food bank is) functioning well.
"The bad news, of course, it means there’s an increased need in our community. That’s the discouraging part of our reality."
Earlier this year, a national survey found Manitoba food banks have seen a nearly 60% increase in usage since 2008, with close to 63,500 Manitobans using a food bank in March 2012.
As the food bank in Charleswood approaches its third year of operation in February, Gillingham said it will be focusing on recruiting more volunteers, and reaching out to the local business community to see if job opportunities can be created through networking.
"It would be somewhat ideal if some more businesses were involved and from that, found ways to find employment for these folks who need it to help gain financial independence," Gillingham said.
"If there are more people, more businesses involved in this community partnership, it brings a great sense of awareness as to the need in our community, and, ideally, more people may catch the vision for finding ways to reduce or eradicate poverty in our community."
Darlene Lewis, a St. James resident who has volunteered at the food bank since it opened, said the experience has been a humbling one.
"We can all find ourselves in that situation," she said.
It’s important for the food bank to move beyond being seen as solely a church effort, she said, and it takes a concentrated community effort to help begin removing burdens for its users.
"It’s very humiliating to have to come to a food bank," Lewis said.
"It’s circumstances that have brought them here. We need to get people in the area help us and reach out to the people that need to use this."
Launched in February 2011, food bank partners also include the Westgrove Family Resource Centre and the Assiniboia-Charleswood Community Church. Food is provided and delivered by Winnipeg Harvest.
The food bank operates every second Tuesday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Westdale Community Centre, another food bank partner.
For information on how to register for the food bank, call 204-982-3660.