December 14, 2018

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Income gap higher in north: food bank head

Piles of supplies from Winnipeg Harvest head to Thompson, Flin Flon

Roy Bladen of the Salvation Army in Thompson at the lone local food bank. </p>

Roy Bladen of the Salvation Army in Thompson at the lone local food bank.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2016 (806 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THOMPSON — In Manitoba, the disparity between the rich and the poor is perhaps most prominent in Thompson, said a local minister Wednesday.

Roy Bladen, the ministry director for the Salvation Army food bank in Thompson, appeared overwhelmed by the heaping piles of donations pouring through the doors from Winnipeg Harvest. The city food bank is touring the north dropping off emergency supplies.

“We don’t see this very often,” he said of the large shipment, which included more than a dozen bags of flour. “I asked for flour. I’ve been well-floured.”

The Thompson food bank is the only operation focused on giving free food to those in need in the community. There is no soup kitchen, although people can get some meals at the two local homeless and crisis shelters.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2016 (806 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THOMPSON — In Manitoba, the disparity between the rich and the poor is perhaps most prominent in Thompson, said a local minister Wednesday.

Roy Bladen, the ministry director for the Salvation Army food bank in Thompson, appeared overwhelmed by the heaping piles of donations pouring through the doors from Winnipeg Harvest. The city food bank is touring the north dropping off emergency supplies.

Rhonda Powers of Gimli-based food bank Evergreen Basic Needs hauls donations.</p>

Rhonda Powers of Gimli-based food bank Evergreen Basic Needs hauls donations.

"We don’t see this very often," he said of the large shipment, which included more than a dozen bags of flour. "I asked for flour. I’ve been well-floured."

The Thompson food bank is the only operation focused on giving free food to those in need in the community. There is no soup kitchen, although people can get some meals at the two local homeless and crisis shelters.

'I think if I had a wish it would be that the community would be more generous to the charities here'— Roy Bladen, ministry director for the Salvation Army food bank in Thompson

Bladen said clients range from single-parent families with an average of four to five kids to seniors and single people who find themselves out of work in the winter months.

Volunteer Quincy Fudge spoke of a single man with a backpack coming through one day. When the man saw Fudge, he started to sob.

"He said, ‘Sir, I hate to come here looking for food, but I’ve got no choice. I’m down and out, I’m at the end of my rope, and I don’t know what to do,’" Fudge recalled. "So we did what we could for him, and he went away with some food and a little bit of dignity."

The food bank does what it can every Tuesday and Thursday, offering free bread and pastries. They offer hampers full of non-perishables, meat and frozen foods clients can pick up once a month.

Bladen said they interview clients upon arrival and re-interview them again once per year to see whether their lives’ trajectories have changed.

Harvest driver Paul Brault hands food to Flin Flon food bank co-chairwoman Alison Dallas. </p>

Harvest driver Paul Brault hands food to Flin Flon food bank co-chairwoman Alison Dallas.

"I think if I had a wish it would be that the community would be more generous to the charities here," Bladen said about his hopes for Thompson.

He’s worked in other provinces where fundraising hasn’t been as much of a struggle. In Drumheller, Alta., a community of about 8,000, he said he easily raised $80,000 to $100,000 during the holidays. In Thompson, a city of roughly 13,000, he scrounges to find $40,000.

Money raised goes toward feeding about 580 clients per month, a number that continues to rise, Bladen said.

Earlier in the day, the Harvest crew went to Flin Flon, a community strapped for supplies after a fire caused smoke damage to the Lord’s Bounty Food Bank Sept. 13, forcing them to move. The board there said they also noticed a surge of about 20 per cent more clients in the last year.

The Flin Flon food bank reopened Tuesday in a new location a few doors down from its old building, a duplex where the upstairs tenant died after his apartment caught fire. Firefighters reported the fire was caused by someone smoking upstairs.

JESSICA BOTELHO-URBANSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Volunteer Norman Allen wheels a dolley full of flour into the Salvation Army food bank in Thompson. </p>

JESSICA BOTELHO-URBANSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Volunteer Norman Allen wheels a dolley full of flour into the Salvation Army food bank in Thompson.

Local business owner Brad Burke of Burkee’s Sports Lounge and Restaurant lent them his storage space and hired a maintenance crew to help them move in.

While they were closed, the vice-president of the food bank’s board, Alison Dallas, said she heard stories about people approaching other agencies in town because they were hungry.

"Clients from here were showing up at our friendship centre with no food... which really says, in one week, how much we really need this food bank," she said. "It’s a misconception that the food bank isn’t utilized by every demographic: seniors, families, single parents, the working poor."

"Living expenses have gone up, and what we know is that wages aren’t following suit," said Joanna LeDoux, another board member.

Volunteers unloaded fresh produce, milk, cheese and canned goods from Harvest, enough food to hopefully last them one month, Dallas said, though the potatoes and milk are a "hot commodity" sure to go much more quickly.

Even as the population has decreased around Flin Flon — sitting around 6,000 in the 2011 census — co-founder Dennis Hydamaka said the food bank’s user numbers still swell. Comparing August 2015 with August 2016, the numbers rose 20 per cent. In the last year alone, they’ve served 2,080 people.

Hydamaka started the food bank 30 years ago with his wife, Carol, out of their home. The couple said they got started after their daughter’s friend called her in desperate need of a loan. His employment insurance cheque was late, and he only had a half-jar of cheese spread in his fridge.

Carol gave him enough TV dinners to last the weekend, and since then, Dennis Hydamaka said: "We have never turned anybody away."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @_jessbu

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Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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