Local hamper program helps keep food on the table
Local hamper program helps keep food on the table

Local hamper program helps keep food on the table

Food Cupboard volunteers prepare hampers for distribution

The Food Cupboard at Oasis Church has seen firsthand how the pandemic and resulting economic slowdown has impacted people struggling with food security in Penticton. “In 2021, we were handing out more than 75 food hampers a week,” says Keri Wehlander, minister at the church. “In 2022, that number jumped to over 150 hampers per week. Many of the new individuals and families coming to us were living close to the edge before the economic downturn; now they have been forced to seek our help to keep food on the table.” 

Doreen McLennan, who coordinates shopping for the Food Cupboard, scans flyers each week for sales to make sure she is purchasing food supplies at the lowest price. Even with this careful approach, prices have nearly doubled for many essential items. The sharp increase in demand for hampers, combined with those skyrocketing food prices, became too much for the church to handle with the limited resources it had at its disposal.  

Thankfully, a conversation in July of 2022 between the church and the Community Foundation resulted in a grant to help sustain the hamper program through to the end of the year. “Food insecurity is a pervasive issue in our region, and addressing it is a strategic priority for us,” says Aaron McRann, Executive Director of the Foundation. “In this instance, we were truly fortunate to partner with an anonymous donor who also sees it as a priority. As a result, we were able to double the impact of our grant.” 

Access to food wasn’t the only need the Food Cupboard addressed during the chilly days of winter.  Warm coats, toques, scarves and sleeping bags, donated by members of the congregation and the wider community, were given out whenever someone needed them. A member of Oasis Church even sewed 115 two-layer fleece mittens that were donated to protect people from the cold. 

Now that the calendar has turned to 2023, Keri sees little sign of demand for the hamper program slowing down. “We deeply appreciate the support of our food suppliers, members of our congregation and caring people in the wider community,” she says. “We’re doing our best to ensure that each person who comes to us gets the help they need.”