Pasta, salsa, chips and other foods laid out on a carboard box

The Cortes and Quadra Island Food Banks in a time of rising prices and declining real wages

Amanda Smith, of the Quadra Island Food Bank emailed, “Obviously our buying power has diminished across the board due to inflationary pressures. Increases for fruits and vegetables and eggs have been most disturbing. Our vegetable choices are now largely governed by price. 2022 saw a 35% increase over 2021 for the number of hampers distributed. The number of hampers distributed so far in 2023 is markedly higher than 2022 and there is no relief in sight. Every distribution this year has registered new first-time users.”

Samantha Statton, President of the Cortes Island Food Bank, reported a rise of about 15%. 

In a previous interview, Amanda Smith said the Quadra Island Food Bank’s most popular food is Kraft Mac and Cheese – Photo by Selena N. B. H. via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)  

SS: “In 2021, from my records, we served 91 clients. In 2022, 105 people were served.”

Filipe Figueira, Treasurer, of the Cortes Island Food Bank agreed that the numbers had gone up, and also said that declining real wages mean that working people are having to use the food bank much more.

FF: “We’ve definitely seen an increase. There’s a lot higher need out there and I think there’s still a reluctance to use the food bank. They really only come to us when they’re in a desperate situation.” 

“In 2022  we served clients 105 times, but we have probably around 21 unique clients. 60% only come once a year because they only need help in some emergency. We only had one customer who came four times last year.” 

CC: How long would a food hamper typically last? 

SS: “I think they’d probably last about two weeks for an individual. If they’re families, then we try and give them obviously more and bigger quantities, family size things. So that might last two to three weeks for them, maybe a month.”

FF: “It also depends on the items. Right now we’ve got tons of pasta, tons of potatoes, so that could last for a long time, but we may have less of some other stuff. We’re trying to get a well-rounded box that somebody can eat well for two weeks. If it doesn’t last that long, they can always come back and get more.”

“It’s not like they’re dependent on the food bank. It’s that some emergency comes up and we are now in a position where we can step in and help them out with at least some of the key costs.  Nobody should be struggling to eat.”

“These are all challenges in all rural communities but I think, just as the last census shows, Cortes is in a particularly difficult situation.  10 to 15% of the population is now living below the poverty line. People are struggling and it doesn’t take much to take them over the edge.”

SS: “On Cortes people are finding they’re not being employed year round.  Emergencies come up, things happen, and they have to choose between having to pay their rent versus food. There’s a lot of aspects that bring them to the food bank and it’s an all around difficult time.”

FF: “If we have a message to put out there.”

SS: “There’s no stigma.” 

FF: “We’ve got plenty of food available to help people.  If you are suffering because of some emergency that’s happened, don’t hesitate to contact us.”

Smith encountered the same problem on Quadra, “Our ongoing challenge is trying to reach all those who need food assistance. We know there are people out there who are struggling, but they are reluctant to use the food bank.”

Asked about her accomplishments, Smith replied, “Our success this year has been developing a website to help people connect with the food bank.”

FF: “We’ve had a really successful year. We have incorporated, we’ve joined Food Banks BC which gives us access to a whole bunch of resources, funds and food. We have  a nice small board, that’s very active and very efficient. We’ve reached a position now where I think we are pretty solidly set up to serve the community.” 

SS: “We are in the process of building up our reserves so we can better serve the public of Cortes.” 

The food banks on both islands are trying to incorporate foods from local farms.

Smith wrote, “We are happy to support local when we can, but locally grown food is not always an option due to cost and fluctuating availability. There are also some red-tape hurdles. Small growers will not issue receipts and we need to account for our spending. Also we were kindly offered some local pork but, because it hadn’t been government inspected or cut into portions. There were too many hurdles for a group of volunteers to handle. We are fortunate to receive many donations of fruit and vegetables from island gardeners.”

SS: “It’s a work in progress. We’re still figuring that out, but yes, we do work with local farmers to get fresh food. We have done it in the past where we’ve just paid the farmers for boxes for the clients.”

CC: What kind of food? 

SS: “Broccoli, carrots, onions, corn, salad greens, beets, fresh farm eggs, whatever is going that week with the farmers, that’s what  they would get.”

FF: “We’ve reached out to some farmers, but not all of them.  Hopefully we can come up with a plan that works for everybody and it’s easy as well. The other way we get fresh produce to folks is that we may give gift cards for the stores. They can go in and buy stuff that we can’t really store, perishables like milk and dairy. For the moment, we’re not able to supply that directly.”

The Cortes Island Food Bank does not accept home canning, or any open packaged items.

FF: “If it is past its ‘sell by date,’ or it’s damaged or tainted in any way – If you are not going to eat it, our clients are not going to eat it. We really appreciate that everybody wants to be generous and find stuff to give to the food bank, but it creates a lot of work for us.”

CC: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

SS: “I’m happy with what we’ve achieved to date. I’m really happy with the two folks I’m working with, Beatrix Baxter and Filipe Figueira. It’s been amazing and we can only get stronger and go forward even more. I’m very thrilled.” 

CC: So there’s three of you, can I get your names and titles 

SS: “I’m Samantha, I’m President …”

FF: “ … And client coordinator. Samantha does all the work in the trenches,  dealing with clients and the day-to-day stuff.”

“I’m treasurer and I just try and liaise with some of the  external agencies like Foodbanks BC We’ve connected with so many good organizations. There’s an organization called Loaves and Fishes down in Nanaimo where we get pallets of fantastic food.  There’s the Union Protein Project we’re collaborating with as well.” 

“Beatrix Baxter is our communications and secretary person. She put together our wonderful website.”

“We have some people who volunteer as well. They become available when we need them.”

“We also really appreciate the generosity of people who give donations to us.That goes a long way. Financial donations go far further than anything else. We’ve had a nice bump over the Christmas period. People are always generous over the Christmas period, but we’d ask people to think about donating at any point in the year because we start running out of funds and money is always really, really helpful. We can always deal with more in order to improve our operations. I think the more supportive people are to the community, the stronger it is.”

The Quadra Island Food Bank website states “Quadra Island Food Bank is operated entirely by volunteers. Those volunteers who work on hamper distribution days arrive at the Food Bank by noon, and are usually done by 2:15 pm. We always aim to have enough volunteers so that an individual will only be called upon once a month.”

The food bank is located in the side building at the north end of Quadra Community Centre. Hamper distribution days are on the first and third Wednesdays of every month from 1 pm to 2 pm. Donations can be dropped off at the Food Bank building, at the north end of Quadra Community Centre, between 11.30 am and 1 pm on distribution days.

“We can be reached via email at: or you can leave a phone message at the Community Centre office 250-285-3243.”

On the Cortes Island Food Bank website it says, ‘Our food storage shed is located at the Manson’s Hall parking lot, near the radio station.’
Phone us: 250-935-0276
Email us: 

“Our team will try to respond within 48 hours.” 

Statton added that they also try to help people feed their cats and dogs.

Top image credit: Foods found in a typical hamper – Photo courtesy Cortes Island Food Bank

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