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'It's a struggle': Tri-Cities food banks hit with high inflation, huge need

There's an urgency for donations this holiday season, and Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody residents are encouraged to "use your connections" to run a food or toy drive.
Brian Hwang, a SHARE Family and Community Services volunteer, sorts cans of vegetables for the food bank.

If you're having trouble feeding your family with food prices rising nearly 12 per cent this fall, imagine what it's like to try to feed hundreds.

That's the challenge facing SHARE Family and Community Services this fall and winter.

The Tri-Cities non-profit organization that runs food banks in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody is trying to make food go even further as more people are signing up for a hamper.

"It's a struggle," admits SHARE CEO Claire MacLean, who told the Tri-City News food bank clients have grown by 50 per cent amidst rising costs for food.

Currently, SHARE feeds 1,700 people a month, and still growing as more are added to the client list each week, including families trying to make ends meet during the current inflationary spiral.

Facing high rents and rising mortgages, even working families are suffering, MacLean said.

"The need is immense. We're seeing new registrants each week and it's not slowing down at all."

Always innovative, SHARE has gone further to stretch a dollar.

More of it's food is coming from grocery stores that re-purpose meat and vegetables close to best before dates.

But MacLean said even the volume of this re-purposed food has dropped.

"They [grocery stores] are also trying to manage things," she said.

Cutting down on food waste

Reducing waste is another way to make food go further.

Instead of handing people bags of food with items they can't use for health reasons or don't know how to use, SHARE is letting people choose their own items in a "grocery model."

The change has enabled Share to more accurately determine the need.

Recently, MacLean put out a video talking about ways food bank contributors can help to make food hampers more "consistent."

Among the most popular food items, said food bank supervisor Krissie Sondles, is canned corn and canned mushrooms.

Other important staples include rice, beans, lentils, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, canned vegetables and canned fish.

People who are unhoused prefer canned meals with a pop top that doesn't require a can opener or heating.

"Even people who don't have a place to live deserve to eat," said Sondles.

Creative giving during difficult times

With the holiday fundraising season starting up, MacLean hopes people will consider SHARE and other non-profits even as their budgets tighten.

There will be opportunities to give — through school and community food and toy drives — and SHARE will have a running calendar of events on its website.

The CP Holiday Train will also be coming to raise funds for the food bank at stops in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody on Sunday, Dec. 18. To find out the schedule visit the's website.

MacLean encourages people to band together to raise funds or run a food drive, either through work, with colleagues, a sports team or community group, for a targeted effort that doesn't put financial stress on a single individual.

"Reach out and use your connections, they [food drives] will be really appreciated."