Campaign aims to stock the shelves of Penticton food bank

People asked to give up their mid-day meal and instead donate food or their lunch money to charity

Salvation Army program co-ordinator Barb Stewart stands in the food bank with one of the lunch bags that will be distributed beginning today for Hunger Awareness Week.

Salvation Army program co-ordinator Barb Stewart stands in the food bank with one of the lunch bags that will be distributed beginning today for Hunger Awareness Week.

Tummies grumbling in unison next week will sound like success for organizers of a drive to replenish the shelves and coffers of the local food bank.

During Hunger Awareness Week, people are asked to give up their mid-day meal and instead donate food or their lunch money to charity.

“Just experience a little bit of what it’s like to have food out of reach every day of your life or for a stressful period,” said Barb Stewart, program co-ordinator for the Penticton branch of the Salvation Army, which operates the city’s food bank.

The campaign will run in conjunction with a national effort spearheaded by Food Banks Canada, and people will be encouraged to share their experience on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.

And to make giving easy, 10 local businesses will hand out paper lunch bags that people can then fill with food donations.

The campaign actually launches Friday morning with an all-day event at Cherry Lane shopping centre, where people can get more information about the campaign and learn about the local food bank.

Then on Monday, two Okanagan College students, Suzanne Hall and Glory MacIntyre, will host a lunch-in from 12-2 p.m. in Nanaimo Square, where people can eat and meet with other like-minded folk who want to make hunger awareness a priority in Penticton. Food bank donations will be accepted on-site.

Demand on the food bank has never been greater.

Roughly one-third of Penticton’s population, some 11,787 different people, paid a visit to the food bank here in 2011, up from 10,962 in 2010, Stewart said.

“People are making due. They’re getting by just barely. They’re scratching by any way they can, but they need to supplement what they’re doing for themselves by coming in here every once in awhile and seeing what’s on the shelves,” she said.

Fortunately, “this is a generous community,” and donations are stable. But, “We’re seeing people come here for support who have been donors in the past. That’s the disturbing thing.”

You can pick up your paper donation bag, and drop off your donations, at the following local businesses next week: Save-On-Foods; Penticton Whole Food Emporium; Nature’s Fare; Real Canadian Wholesale Club; Marketplace IGA; South Main Market; Quality Greens; Safeway; TD Canada Trust; and BMO.

For more information visit www.hungerawarenessweek.ca.