A regular client of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank in Carbonear cannot believe it is declining her family’s request for a Christmas hamper. But according to a spokesperson for the food bank, that’s not the case.
Tiffany Ivey-Ledrew and Justin Ledrew have three sons under the age of 10. According to Tiffany, her family has used the food bank in Carbonear from time to time as needed for the last five years and has received Christmas hampers in the past.
“I’m on a low income, so it is kind of hard around Christmas time for stuff,” she explained in an interview with The Compass Monday, Dec. 3.
A week earlier, the family decided to sign up for a hamper, which includes the items typically needed to look after a Christmas dinner. Tiffany told The Compass there is an ongoing situation with two of her sons, who have another father and are not currently in her care.
The food bank requested MCP numbers of her children, but Tiffany was unable to supply that information due to the situation with two of her sons. According to Tiffany, she received a call at the end of last week from a food bank representative stating if she didn’t supply that information by the end of the day, the family would not be able to get a Christmas hamper.
Tiffany said this is the first time she’s had any sort of trouble dealing with the food bank in Carbonear.
“I said, ‘We’re people too.’ Even if I can’t provide (the MCP numbers), how come they’re going to fully deny me and not provide something?”
Tiffany said she believes the food bank would already have the MCP information for her children on file, adding she did not receive an explanation about why the numbers were needed.
“I’m upset about it,” said Tiffany, who told the food bank she would contact media about her experience. “This is something that they can’t do for low income people.”
Kerri Abbott, the food bank’s chairwoman, told The Compass the size of Christmas hampers varies depending on the size of a family. For families with children, some Christmas treats are typically included (the food bank does not include toys in hampers).
In the case of the Ledrew family, Abbott said it was told the family could receive a hamper for the two adults in the household for which MCP numbers were provided.
“We do the same for every person that comes in here,” she said. “We have guidelines to go by. You have to provide your proof of income, your proof of address and MCP numbers. It should be a non-issue.”
Abbott said she asked the family if it could get a social worker to contact the food bank to verify the information for the kids or an official with a government department.
“She left a not-very-nice message on our answering machine and we’ve been attempting to get in touch with her, and she’s refusing to answer calls,” Abbott said.
“We’re trying to feed a lot of people … when people donate to us, the biggest thing you hear back in the community is people expressing concerns about abuse of the food bank. We’re not asking for anything that anyone else couldn’t provide. If you sign up for any government service, you need to provide the same things. We’re not doing house visits to gauge poverty levels … We’re asking for simple, matter-of-fact data.”
Tiffany denied Abbott’s claim the food bank told her it was willing to provide a Christmas hamper for just herself and her husband.
As of earlier this year, the food bank was serving upwards of 400 households a month. Its coverage area starts in Old Perlican and moves down the North Shore towards Carbonear.
“When someone doesn’t have an MCP card and we offer that option, usually they will find a health nurse, social worker or an intake officer who will call and say, ‘Yes, they do have these two kids.’ It’s a difficult situation,” Abbott said.
Tiffany said her family was very much looking forward to getting a hamper, which normally includes a turkey and all the vegetables associated with Christmas dinner.
“That would be a big help, because I don’t have $40 to spend just like that,” Tiffany said. “I’m only living off $185 every two weeks.”
In the meantime, Tiffany is considering reaching out to her local MHA and other food banks.
“This is pretty bad — to turn somebody away like that with kids.”