The number of people turning to the Salvation Army's Estevan food bank in recent months is around 40 per cent higher than a few years ago.

The food bank helped 220 people in April, and is already passing the 200 mark for May.

Salvation Army community ministries director for Estevan and Weyburn, Ronza Reynard, said they have about eight to 10 new people turning to the food bank or other services each month.

A few years ago, 140 to 150 people constituted a typical month.

"We kind of expect that it's going to be a continuation, especially with the price of food right now, the price of gas right now," said Reynard. "Everything seems to be going up, so our numbers going up makes sense."

The average price of food increased by 7.9 per cent in Saskatchewan from April 2021 to April 2022, per Statistics Canada's Consumer Price Index. There was an 8.8-per-cent increase nationally.

A litre of unleaded fuel at self-serve pumps in Estevan is in the mid-to-upper $1.80s. Statistics Canada chalked up the rising gas prices, along with the war in Ukraine, as contributing to higher food prices. Reynard said the added gas prices also directly put more financial stress on people.

shelves with food on themThe price of pasta products rose 19.6 per cent across Canada from April 2021 to April 2022, according to Statistics Canada (photo courtesy Ronza Reynard)

Other food banks are experiencing the theme of higher public demand.

"In Weyburn it's the same thing," said Reynard. "The numbers are up, and they continue to be going up. We're not anything different from anybody else."

She said though it can be a struggle to keep up with demand, the community support has been tremendous.

"Estevan and the area support us. We have people who will call us and ask, 'What do you need? Where can we help?'

Reynard said the end of the school year can also be a challenge for families.

"It puts a bigger burden on the family. There might not be a feeding program, and so now mom and dad have to try to make the groceries just go that much further in the summertime."

The rising food prices also make it tougher for the food bank to purchase groceries. Reynard would love if someone donated a cow or something similar.

The Salvation Army has also shifted to giving people options on the groceries that get purchased.

"The way we do our food bank right now is people fill out a grocery list. We take it from our stock of food, so we know exactly what we need to replenish with."

She said tailoring hampers to fit people's needs and wishes means the food bank's money is being spent more effectively, and that the people turning to the food bank have more dignity.

Reynard added that she's looking forward to the Canada Post Food Drive resuming this year on June 11, after being scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. She's hoping that they'll receive 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of food from the drive.