Christmas always brings more food items to the HIV Food Bank, but Manager Stacia Whittaker is still appealing for fresh fruits and vegetables.
She said in an interview with Barbados TODAY that they were in discussions with “a couple” of farmers and cooperatives to have them donate produce which might be in surplus quantities or not being sold on the market quickly for various reasons.
“We get a lot of canned stuff but I try to plug more fruits and vegetables. Although we’re trying to assist, [a person] might be hungry and want something to eat, that’s the bottom line but we know that HIV is becoming more of a chronic diseases. We have people living longer with HIV but they’re getting other problems, they’re either diabetic, hypertensive, they’re getting kidney failure, they’re having liver problems.
“We want to plug good nutrition, good eating habits and how good nutrition can support their immune system. We’re trying to get more people to send us fresh produce, of course we always want the non-perishables but we want fruits and vegetables and ground provisions…. The corned beef and luncheon meat [some clients] can’t eat and you would be adding fuel to fire so we’re trying to have the other options at our Food Bank,” Whittaker said.
She noted however, the discussions were in the initial stages and they wanted farmers to give a little of what they have.
The Manager said that the response to Saturday’s food drive yielded more money than food and the response was still good in view of the economic recession.
“Christmas always brings more giving. People normally contact us more in December because they’re doing food drives whether there are at their schools, offices, churches, we find that people call more often [at this time of the year].
“It’s good that World AIDS Day is in the month of December which we know is the yuletide season and everybody is more giving. If they don’t give on [World AIDS Day] you will find it spills over into Christmas. They want to give and sometimes it spills over into early January. The month of December is great for us,” she said.
She said that with December 1, the Food Bank was able to promote its programmes and how they were able to assist people afflicted with the disease.
Noting there are 326 clients registered with them, Whittaker said they were trying not to create a dependency syndrome.
“Social workers work with us to assess the needs of person who are coming to us for assistance. Some people think that just because you’re HIV you come and get food from us, that’s not how we do it. If there’s a need, if they see that you’re not working, you’re sick all the time, probably low income, under employed or unemployed, those psycho-social and socio-economic conditions that would bring that food assistance need then you are referred to us. We don’t want you to depend on the food items, we want you to see it as a supplement,” she explained.
She added that in the Ministry of Health they tried to set up a programmes to provide assistance so people would be able to get back on their feet and earn money.
“Our needs will always be there. We will always see people coming or being referred to us … by frontline persons … It’s like a revolving door, but we work with you. Some people might have to stay on indefinitely because you might have disabled people and there might be a lot you can do.
“There are others who might move on and then you see them next year because something happened and they came back for food assistance. So with that you’ll have fluctuations in numbers,” Whittaker said.
Summer is a tough time as donations dwindled while the demand increases. (DS)