AMHERST – Matchstick Mike Bidlake believes the people operating the region’s food banks are true heroes.
That’s why the Fredericton-based blues musician is joining forces with fellow musician Travis Furlong to perform 16 shows in 16 days in support of 17 food banks, including Amherst and Sackville, N.B.
Blues for Food kicks off Friday with a noon-hour show at Market Square in Saint John, N.B. and continues non-stop through New Brunswick before hitting Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
The tour wraps up in Halifax in mid-December.
“Earlier this year, when I was scheduling shows, I saw a hole in my schedule and started thinking about putting something together for food banks. I reached out to Travis and made the pitch and it all came together,” Bidlake said during a stop in Amherst on Tuesday. “I’ve wanted to do something for food banks for some time because food is central concern in every community. Everybody needs to eat.
“By benefitting food banks I am able to see the results of my efforts quicker and more directly.”
He said food bank workers and volunteers work 365 days a year to provide food to those in need and are an important piece of the social safety net.
“They are warriors to me, they’re on the frontlines making sure our communities are fed. They have my utmost respect and admiration,” Bidlake said. “Kids, families and the less fortunate are fed because of food banks and I’m so in awe of what they do in every community. It’s nice to know there’s such a blanket of love across this country.”
He knows it’s a hectic, demanding schedule but people in food banks don’t get a break so he’s not taking one either.
The tour comes to Amherst at Teazer’s Pub on Sunday, Dec. 3 from 3 to 5 p.m. and is in Sackville, N.B. on Monday, Dec. 4. from 7 to 9 p.m. at Joe’s Crow.
Admission is by cash donation or a non-perishable food item, which will be presented to the Amherst Food Assistance Network.
Teazer’s manager Raymond Jones said it was an easy decision when approached by Bidlake about doing a show in Amherst.
“We’ve been a big supporter of the food bank with our annual Boxing Day Jam and it’s nice to be able to give a little extra, especially at this time of year when the demand is highest,” Jones said. “We try to help out in the community any way we can.”
Poverty rates in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island rank worse than the national average and are among the worst in Canada. He said the use of food banks is increasing in almost every community and the situation is not getting any better.
The 2016 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia has the province’s child poverty rate at 22.5 per cent, representing 37,450 children (or one in five). Nova Scotia has the third highest provincial child poverty rate in Canada and the highest in Atlantic Canada.
The most recent Hunger Count survey showed food bank usage in Nova Scotia jumped 21 per cent.