PORT HARDY, B.C. – The Harvest Food Bank needs a flood of donations and lots of helping hands as it works to feed a growing number of people from Port Hardy and beyond.

Over the past four years, demand has tripled.

Through its grocery program, the number of food boxes handed out to local households has grown from 90 to roughly 300 each month.

“It’s especially high high in December,” Harvest manager Andy Cornell said. “I expect around 375 (households) in December. That varies from a single person living on their own to families with six kids. So the actual number of people (being helped) is in the neighbourhood of 500 to 700 a month.”

North Harvest also provides food for meal programs at schools, helping to feed hundreds of children each day. The local food bank is also responsible for providing thousands of meals each month, in partnership with different agencies in the region.

But the food bank is struggling to keep up.

“Not so well,” Cornell said, when asked how North Harvest is coping with the spike in need in the area. “The demand has more than tripled in four years but the resources I have to meet the demand have only risen slightly over that same period of time.”

For example, the food boxes have fewer choices than before.

“I used to buy things like milk every week, and I haven’t had money for that for years now,” he said. “I used to buy carrots, (and) we don’t have money for that. We still buy onions and potatoes and eggs. Honestly, the quality has really gone down simply due to having to spread the same amount of resources much more widely.”

Cornell said number of food bank clients has grown considerably after he lowered some of the barriers that were in place.

“In particular I made it a lot easier for the folks in Alert Bay and Sointula to access the food bank, so those numbers are up from almost zero to considerable numbers,” Cornell said.

Moving towards the holiday season, Cornell said the most valuable and useful way to help is by volunteering with the agency.

“And I don’t mean one-shot deals but where people can commit to volunteer on an ongoing basis. That’s the No. 1 shortage that we have here,” he said.

Funding donations through either cash or cheques is also much needed. Anyone donating more than $20 will receive a tax receipt.

And, of course, food is the lifeblood of the organization. Donations of non-perishables and fresh produce are always welcome.

To learn more on how to donate, and for hours of operation, visit harvestfoodbank.org. The food bank is located at 7120 Market St. Call (250) 902-0332.