The iconic red Salvation Army Kettles are back this week as the Salvation Army food bank’s only annual fundraiser.
The organizers of the campaign in the local Salvation Army are hoping to see a good drop in the bucket, as it were. Last year, between Houston and Smithers, they raised $35,000, which is approximately the value of food they handed out over the year.
In Smithers, five local organizations — St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Northern Health, the Bulkley Valley Credit Union, Pharmasave and Safeway — have offered to sponsor a kettle (meaning employees will spend a day by a kettle). It is the fourth year the Salvation Army has done the sponsor-a-kettle program and it has worked out well for them.
In Houston the kettle will be run by volunteers in the Houston Mall.
Rick Apperson, the Bulkley Valley Ministries Director for the Salvation Army, said that the crunch on affordable food is getting harder each year. Since January last year, the cost of a single food bag has doubled, he said.
“I was actually pricing our food bags last week. A food bag was about a $25 value. That same amount of food is now $41,” he said.
It’s a trend they’re feeling at the food bank and even in his own family shopping.
That food bag includes cereal, macaroni and cheese, instant noodles, canned beans and vegetables, canned meats, pasta, pasta sauce, canned fruit, a drink of some kind and a little bag of rice.
“It’s a pretty good sized bag,” he said.
Donations of money have been consistent this year, he said, which has been good but they do have to carefully watch the expiration date of donated food. He said they occasionally will get food that is well past the expiration date.
In terms of actual food they suffer mostly in the areas of canned fruit, beans and vegetables. They have to more frequently go out and purchase those items.
In Smithers, they’ve seen an increase in families using the food bank, while in Houston the amount of single people has been spiking.
“Some of our single individuals have moved to Houston because of the low income housing that’s available,” said Apperson.
The people organizing kettles this year are Shirley DeWitt and Mary Aldrich, and people can call the Smithers or Houston thrift store to volunteer if they wish. The kettles begin this week and get put away after Dec. 21.