DIGBY, N.S. – Christmas is the time for giving, and many have donated to the food bank in recent weeks. However the president of the Digby and Area Food Bank said after the Christmas season, operations become much more challenging.
“People are very generous here and the community is very supportive, especially at Christmas,” Roger Tibbetts said, mentioning the 25 turkeys the high school recently donated to the food bank. “But the giving really slows down after the first of the year and on into spring when people’s tax bills start to arrive.”
The food bank currently has 245 registered families on their books, and they serve an average of 50 families each week they’re open. Digby and Area Food Bank is registered with Feed Nova Scotia and serves the region from Bear River bridge to the community of Ashmore, including Dibgy Neck and the islands, and usually provides emergency food supplies for three to five days.
“The trouble is, we’re seeing new families arrive at our doors all the time,” Tibbetts said. “Single moms, people with new health issues, you name the story, we’ve seen it here.”
Tibbetts said the food bank is open three times a month and clients can visit two times out of the three.
With 12 years in his leadership role at the food bank, Tibbetts says he has witnessed a few examples of fraud in the past – clients who have lied about their income or housing arrangements or clients who are double-dipping by visiting more than one food bank or are receiving food support from other agencies.
“I tell people, just be honest with me and I’ll work with you, and of course, we always do whatever we can to help people who need help. That’s why we’re here,” Tibbetts said.
Given those past experiences, Tibbetts said he did initiate some updated rules when the food bank moved into its new location at 53 Mount Street, where it occupies donated space on the lower level of the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Clients now have to disclose their financial situation and their expenses. But he added that in such a tightknit community as Digby, it’s next to impossible for people to get away with anything for long.
“This is a community foodbank, it belongs to the people, and I’m accountable to everybody,” Tibbetts said. “People come up to me all the time on the street, and it’s always either ‘Why are you helping this person? ‘ or ‘Why aren’t you helping that person?’.” Tibbetts said with a short laugh. “I get flack from people all over town. I always say I can never get lost here because people are always telling me where to go.”
So why does he stay on?
“Because in spite of all that, Digby has a big heart, that’s the bottom line here,” Tibbetts said. And as a longtime community volunteer, apparently the food bank president shares that sort of heart.
“I always tell people, do something for somebody every day,” Tibbetts added. “A kind word, a drive somewhere, it doesn’t have to be much, just do something to make a difference. Isn’t that what it’s all about? I mean, what do you want to be remembered for? And of course, my bottom line is, I like people and I like helping people.”
Thanks to Christmas donations, the food bank is currently pretty well-stocked, however Tibbetts says the need is always there.
“As a volunteer agency, our budget is whatever is donated,” he said. “I’m hopeful 2018 is going to be a good year, but we do need donations and food all year-round.”
While Tibbetts is aware that other organizations also need donations and support as well, he’s really grateful that people continue to be generous to the food bank. Right now, the food bank would be further grateful for some specialty items – coffee, peanut butter, boxed macaroni and cheese, sardines and toppings for toast – jam and cheese spreads.
The Digby and Area Food Bank is open the first three Wednesdays of the month from 8:30 to noon. For food support or more information, please call the Digby and Area Food Bank at 902-378-4508.