‘Target Hunger’ campaign no longer providing yellow bags, food banks hope donations continue

The Lethbridge Food Banks and the Interfaith Food Bank say they both saw declines in food donations back in March when the COVID-19 pandemic began to heavily affect the people of southern Alberta.

Now, they are hoping that will change.

While food donations were down, Maral Kiani Tari with the Lethbridge Food Bank says community support has been a big help.

“We’ve been creating a lot more partnerships. We’ve been supporting other agencies,” Tari said.

While monetary support was a little stronger than actual food donations, Tari says that too is starting to taper off. She adds they have also had trouble accessing food itself.

“We did see a supply-chain sort of issue where we were trying to source food,” she said. “There was a backlog… that is slowly clearing itself out, so it’s slowly going back to what things used to be.”

Danielle McIntyre, executive director at the Interfaith Food Bank, says it experienced a spike in demand in March, which then declined in April and May.

She says this is due in part to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other funding helping out their clients.

“We are very grateful that our families are able to be accessing some emergency financial supports,” McIntyre said.

Both McIntyre and Tari say they have been pleased to see more volunteers returning to help out and new faces just starting to help out.

“A lot of our volunteers are senior citizens or people with disabilities,” McIntyre said. “But as things are reopening we’re seeing several of those volunteers returning.”

One of the city-wide fundraising initiatives the food banks are able to continue this year is the Target Hunger campaign, where on the second Saturday of June, Lethbridge residents are asked to leave non-perishable donations on their doorsteps.

Traditionally, residents would receive a bright yellow bag at their front door prior to the event to place the items in.

“We decided to phase out the yellow bags before COVID hit,” McIntyre said.

“Single-use plastics is something that we’ve been trying to reduce over the years, and lot of times people just complain about bags being in their backyards instead of on their doorstep,” she added, referencing the potential of the wind to cause litter.

Tari adds the cost of producing and receiving the bags is several thousand dollars, so phasing them out will also help reduce costs.

“That yellow bag has traditionally been the signal that it’s time to donate, so we’re really hoping that community members will spread the buzz on their own.”

Instead of placing food donations in the yellow bags, the food banks are simply asking residents to place items on the doorsteps in their own bags or boxes, labelled with a “TH” for “Target Hunger.”

Volunteers will pick up the items around the city on June 13.

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