Posted Mar 5, 2020 9:09 pm PST

Last Updated Mar 6, 2020 at 5:33 am PST




VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Lines at Greater Vancouver Food Bank locations have been getting shorter over the last three weeks, and the agency says fear surrounding COVID-19 is to blame.

Visits to some sites have dropped as much as 20 percent, according to Cynthia Boulter, Chief Operating Officer.

“When we talk to our site partners, so the neighbourhood houses or the churches where we create these pop-up food hubs during the week, the general consensus is that people are staying away because of fears around coronavirus.”

The organization assists 8,500 people per week and Boulter says the drop-off in clients has been more noticeable at locations that primarily serve seniors and single people.

She says the decrease in numbers is troubling and worries people may be going hungry even though the risk in B.C. remains low and visiting the food bank poses no extra risk.

“I think what we’re all hearing is that – in general – people are overreacting to the current threat. We would certainly encourage people to come if they need food,” she says. “We’re certainly not cautioning people to stay away.”

She says everything is properly sanitized and people who work or volunteer for the organization are following health officials’ advice to stay home when sick.

“Where they would have pushed through it before, they’re staying home now,” she explains.

Whenever numbers drop for any reason–which is rare–Boulter says they make sure surplus food goes to others in need, noting staff have made two trips to Squamish in recent weeks to drop off leftover produce.

“People are in great need. And it’s hard to go a week without,” she says. “Perhaps people are leaning on friends and family or something like that more than they normally do. But we encourage them to come and get the food that they need.”