People’s Pantry faces funding crunch as demand rises while grants wane

file photo Jeremy Shepherd

It’s early November and the People’s Pantry is in the same type of spot they’ve been in for more than a year – a precarious one.

One year ago they were handing out 60 hampers each week. Now the volunteer-dominated crew is handing out 130 bundles each week to help feed about 300 hungry people across the Tri-Cities.

“We can’t take anymore,” explains executive director Pam Eberl. “[We’re] absolutely maxed.”

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Those bundles of fruits, vegetables, and protein go to seniors and at-risk youth as well as single-parents.

Eberl recounts getting calls from single-mothers looking at bare cupboards and empty bank accounts, wondering how they’re going to feed the kids until the next paycheque clears.

“Those type of situations, we can’t say ‘No,’” Eberl says, adding that sometimes they’re forced to send people to SHARE Food Bank.

After people pay the rent, many are looking to save on food, Eberl says.

“It’s a storm that’s just going to hit us,” she explains. “I can’t see this going away. I can only see this getting worse.”

Operating out of Elks Hall in Leigh Square, the People’s Pantry is the last stop before the landfill. Volunteers drive to Save-On-Foods and Costco, grabbing piles of food that would otherwise be thrown away.

The approach – despite helping people while eliminating waste – can be a challenge when it comes to finding support.

“There’s very few grants out there that will fund our costs because our costs are basically the administration to run the program,” Eberl explains.

The People’s Pantry is also facing real estate pressures. With their time running out in Elks Hall, Eberl has been searching for a new location for the past year.

“It can change at any time and we could be out on our ears,” she says.

They have a couple leads on a new location, Eberl says, but nothing concrete just yet.

It all adds up to a challenging situation.

“Between November-December is our crunch time that we desperately look for donations from people,” Eberl says. “Hopefully people will send some money our way.”

Eberl says she’s hopeful people might choose to support the People’s Pantry for Giving Tuesday at the end of the month.

“They do get a tax receipt and our undying gratitude.”

To learn more about People’s Pantry or to donate, click here.

Related: Serving the people by cheating the landfill

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