Surrey Food Bank Faces Donation Deficit Amid Rising Demand

by Ella

Surrey, British Columbia – As the escalating cost of food strains households across British Columbia, the Surrey Food Bank finds itself grappling with a mounting challenge – a donation deficit that threatens its ability to meet the surging demand for assistance.

Executive director Mahmood Zafar reports that a staggering 46,000 households have now sought support from the charity, marking an increase of 11,000 compared to the previous year. Zafar anticipates this number will swell to 60,000 by 2024, further straining the already tight margins of the food bank.


“Until February, we received generous donations. However, donations began to dwindle while the number of clients seeking help continued to rise,” Zafar revealed in a conversation with Global News. “Now, we are witnessing newcomers turning to us for support, individuals who have never previously sought assistance from a food bank.”


To meet the minimum annual allocation of $67 per client, the Surrey Food Bank requires an additional $500,000 in funding. Currently, Zafar manages the operation under a monthly deficit of $50,000, relying on existing stockpiles to meet the growing demand.


To mitigate this financial challenge, the Surrey Food Bank is exploring innovative approaches to boost donations, including individual outreach to local restaurants.


“Ideally, I would like to establish a reserve that can sustain us for 24 months or more, but currently, our reserves only cover 12 months,” Zafar lamented.

Despite signs of easing price pressures in other sectors of the economy, food inflation remains high in Canada, with the latest consumer price index showing an increase of 8.5 percent at grocery stores.

Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has pledged the support of Canada’s top grocery executives in the government’s efforts to control prices.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, noted that elevated food prices have made procurement challenging for food banks nationwide. He explained, “When prices rise, both companies and consumers become more cautious with food, resulting in fewer food items available for rescue or redistribution to food banks.”

Charlebois added that the soaring costs of rent and mortgages have inflicted additional hardships on households. People are more likely to cut back on grocery expenses than compromise their housing stability, he emphasized, stating, “Currently, the average person is spending roughly the same amount as last year despite food inflation, which means they’re receiving lower-quality and potentially less nutritious food.”

Vijay Naidu, communications manager for the Surrey Food Bank, revealed that the non-profit now fields between 20 and 30 daily appointments, with bookings extending into mid-October. While families await assistance, the food bank provides them with emergency hampers.

“When I first joined, we assisted around 150 households daily, but now it’s over 250 households daily,” Naidu remarked. “If donations continue to decline, we may need to seek additional support from government organizations to address this growing crisis.”



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