The high rate of inflation has impacted Canadians most keenly at the grocery store.

Heading into the holiday season, Ang Stoesz, spokesperson for the Rhineland and Area Food Bank, says the demand for food hampers is on the rise as well. 

"Our highest number this last month, we had one Monday where we had 74 hampers go out. That is for single people, for couples and for some very large families. Every week we are having more and more people registered. The need is only growing, and we don't anticipate that stopping anytime soon."

Although staff are aware that although many of their clients have jobs, Stoesz says it's difficult to feed a family on lower wages, let alone pay for rent or a mortgage and gas for the car.

For newcomers to the food bank, Stoesz says the accessing the resources of the food bank is simple: just walk in and talk to a volunteer at the door.

"You just tell them; I have not been here before. We have a separate desk in the corner that we do all registrations. We 'll take your information - where you live, your address, how many kids you have. We ask that you come with one piece of ID that has your address on it. Once you have that, we have something that we call our menu, where we have the items on that we have every single week. Another volunteer will sit down with you and go through that menu and then you can choose what you want."

Stoesz is a strong believer in not giving clients something they dislike. 

"We really, really like giving them choices."

Once they've gone through the registration process, there are certain staples that clients are guaranteed to find on the shelf every week.

"Cereal, oatmeal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, canned meat, canned vegetables, canned soup, canned fruit - the things that you would choose for your family on an everyday basis are the things that we would have," said Stoesz.

For people wanting to make non-monetary donations to the food bank, there are a few guidelines to follow, such as checking 'best before' dates.

"We are always regulated by the food inspectors, so we have to keep that in mind. We're always in a pinch for shelf space, so we tend not to do a lot of things like Kleenex and toilet tissue and shampoos and those kinds of things. We really like to stick to the food basis."

If possible, they like to offer a weekly special as well. 

Because of the unique dietary needs of infants, donations of baby food are discouraged.

"If we get someone with an infant, they will tell us what they need or use and we will try and get it for them," said Stoesz. "If you would like to donate for baby food it would easier to donate cash and we will put it towards that."

With the arrangement they have with grocery stores, any money donated to the food bank will go further than if donors do the shopping themselves.

"I once again have to talk about the incredible generosity of our community and of the people, the volunteers we have. We have a list of volunteers and people stepping up to volunteer. The support from the grocery stores and the local churches and just the general public. We could not do what we do with the amount that we do it, if not for the generous donations of everyone."

Stoesz requests that the food bank is kept in mind when people plan their end-of-year giving.

"With our economy and prices the way they are, the need within the community is growing every week."

Donations can be made by contacting Stoesz, a board member or leaving a message at the food bank. A staff person is on site Monday morning and evening to accept drop-offs.  

Cash donations can be made to the following address:

Rhineland and Area Food Bank
Box 1107
Altona, Manitoba

With files from Candace Derksen

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