Kneehill County – Demand for food bank, other services increases

Kneehill County council heard a report that demand for services such as the food bank have increased in the municipality. The report was made at the June 11 regular meeting of council.

Councillors heard the annual report of Kneehill Regional FCSS from Executive Director Shelley Jackson-Berry who noted the organization marked its 25th anniversary in 2023. She pointed out the world is a different place than it was in the mid-1990’s, but one constant remains: cooperation between the regional FCSS partners to provide locally-driven, popular programs adding that in 2023 FCSS saw 5,222 individuals benefitting from its programs.

Jackson-Berry stated the Government of Alberta increased FCSS funding in 2023, the first time that’s happened since 2016. She noted it was welcomed, but does pose a bit of a challenge for FCSS partners as FCSS funding is calculated on an 80/20 percentage spilt: 80 per cent from the province, 20 per cent from municipalities.

Looking at trends within FCSS in 2023 Jackson-Berry stated client numbers have increased. One of the most noticeable trends, she pointed out, is that there was an increase over 2022 in the number of referrals FCSS made to local food, clothing and furniture banks, “…as residents faced challenges meeting their basic needs.”

She pointed out another noticeable increase came in the form of requests for counselling services, including marriage, mental health or addictions. “Despite the difficulties residents faced in addressing emotional issues, it was encouraging to see them seeking help,” stated Jackson-Berry’s report.

Another issue mentioned by clients was housing. Jackson-Berry stated FCSS heard much about people looking for housing but finding only limited options.

FCSS saw volunteer hours drop in 2023, but Jackson-Berry was upbeat about this. She pointed out volunteer hours fluctuate. However, she also pointed out volunteerism has benefits for the community and the volunteer alike, and volunteerism rates can sometimes be used to gauge the way in which citizens contribute to their community.

The report noted a popular FCSS program remains the income tax support program, which offers assistance to clients with completing this important form. Jackson-Berry stated the majority of clients who use this program are seniors and FCSS has already helped more clients through this program in 2024 than it did in 2023.

During discussion Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham noted Kneehill County’s large seniors population and requested a rundown on FCSS programming for them.

Jackson-Berry pointed out Kneehill Regional FCSS helps fund Kneehill Seniors Outreach, which handles most programs intended for seniors.

Machell-Cunningham then asked how many people know Kneehill County owns and maintains the FCSS building. As the question was discussed it seemed FCSS staff know these facts but Reeve Ken King, also chair of the FCSS board, said, “The public doesn’t really hear that.”

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen noted that Kneehill County helps out FCSS and other groups with things like IT and doesn’t bill them for it. The reeve pointed out if Kneehill County charged FCSS rent for their space, FCSS would have less money to spend on programs.

Looking at the results of Kneehill Regional FCSS programs over time, Jackson-Berry stated the local board has been successful in supporting the community with popular, useful programs. “I think this program has made a difference,” she said.

Later during council deliberations councillors unanimously passed a resolution to request a report or presentation from seniors outreach on their financials, programs and outcomes.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.