Local food banks are reporting spikes in demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but say they are managing for now.

Both the Central Food Network and the Haliburton 4Cs Food Bank reported more people have needed their services in the past few weeks. The Minden Food Bank could not be reached for comment before press time.

Central Food Network operational and administrative director Tina Jackson said March was one of their busiest months outside of the usual peak of December. They served 105 households, 16 per cent more than February.

“It has been incredibly busy,” Jackson said. “We served almost 240 individuals in March, which is pretty high for us.”

Food Banks Canada has raised concerns about the impact of COVID19 on food banks across the country, with increased demand, strained operational capacity and drops in volunteers. The federal government responded by announcing $100 million towards food banks April 3.

But Haliburton 4Cs Food Bank manager Judy MacDuff said for them, the increase has not been as high as expected, with about 10 new people in the last few weeks of March. She credited it to government support programs like the Emergency Response Benefit.

“I know people have got it and that may be why we aren’t seeing the numbers we thought we’d see. But this (pandemic) is not half over,” MacDuff said.

The volunteer base is holding up as well, she added.

“We’re still able to look after the people we have and the donations. Right now, we’re in okay shape,” she said.

Food banks have also had to adapt by disallowing public entry to their facilities, instead providing hampers for pickup. Jackson said there are reduced quantities of food at stores, which has required some adaptation as well.

“We would normally have a lot of our volunteer shoppers that clip coupons, watch the sales, go into local grocery stores to really stretch our dollars,” Jackson said. “Given COVID-19, that’s not a safe option and because many of the grocery stores are struggling to get the quantities of food in order to meet demand, we’re very mindful … What that has resulted in is having to establish contacts with food distributors.”

Still, both food banks are anticipating the demand to get higher in the weeks to come. Jackson said they are expecting a 15 per cent increase, and “time’s going to tell” on how well they’ll manage.

“We’re definitely going to be here and we’re definitely going to do everything we can to meet needs. We have many donations which we’ll stretch as far as we can,” Jackson said. “High hopes that we’ll have the support we need from various levels of government in order to continue to be there.”

Food banks are looking for cash donations. Donations can be made through respective food bank websites at mindenfoodbank.org, haliburton4cs. org and centralfoodnetwork.org.

“Thank everybody for all the support we’re getting,” MacDuff said. “We really appreciate it.”

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