There are rare occurrences when numbers can be both telling and misleading at the same time.
To wit: 31,422 pounds of food was donated to the Friends In Need (FIN) Food Bank through December. Many of the items came from various "food-raising" events held throughout the community.
Adding to the total was the 9,811 pounds of food coming from donations at local participating grocery stores.
"Sounds impressive," said Ineke Boekhorst, a FIN director, "but it was 10,000 pounds less than [the same time] last year. That's significant."
During December, FIN served 2,497 people, an increase of more than 400 folks from the same period in 2011.
FIN clients range from singles, to seniors, to children and teens, to families.
"Our donations were way down, and our demand was higher," Boekhorst said. "That usually doesn't work out very well."
Over Christmas, FIN accepts items that it relies on to carry through the first few lean months of the new year, when donations traditionally drop sharply.
Boekhorst said the somewhat alarming drop off in donations could be attributed to the fact that many of the people who donated to the local food bank in the past have now become clients, themselves.
"Everybody is in the same boat," Boekhorst said. "We have a lot of working poor, these days. Everybody has a hard time to make everything work.
A lot of people who can barely make their rent are coming in for food. And those were the people who were donating, before, and they've just gone over that edge."
Usually in early January, there is some overflow from donors who never got around to make a contribution before Christmas, Boekhorst noted.
"But then in February it's pretty dry," she added, "so we really depend a lot on what was donated throughout December."
As a non-profit organization driven by volunteers, and the only licensed food bank in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, FIN relies heavily on donations to serve its clients.
Currently, the food bank's depots in downtown Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows need vegetables, pasta, meals-in-a-can, baby formula, and meal replacements for seniors, not to mention non-food items like diapers and toiletries such as shampoos, conditioners, and body wash.
FIN has also received cash donations which will hopefully help carry it through the next couple of months. Boekhorst has faith in the generosity of local residents.
"This community has always come through, it's a very generous community," she said. "It's amazing how much support the community gives us."
Food donations can be dropped off at FIN's head office and Maple Ridge Depot at #8-22726 Dewdney Trunk Rd. between 8: 30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Phone 604-466-FOOD (3663).
Donations may also be dropped off at the Pitt Meadows Depot, 12240 Harris Road (in the Grace Community Church), or at its donation bins located at most local retail grocery store locations.
For more: www.friendsneedfood.com.