LETHBRIDGE -- As inflation and the cost of living continue to impact many in Alberta, food banks in Lethbridge continue to see record demand for support.

"We served just about 700 people in December and we served over 700 in February already again," said Mac Nichol, executive director of the Lethbridge Food Bank.

"Frankly, it's not a surprise at this point."

The Lethbridge Food Bank and Interfaith Food Bank continue to see sharp increases, year over year.

Interfaith provided 1,000 households with hampers in January, when they normally see around 600 to 700 hampers needed.

Interfaith has seen a 61 per cent increase in working people using their services in January compared to the same time last year.

Nichol says along with serving more people, it's been a bit of a balancing game on the operational side of things.

"Over last year, we usually budget $300,000 to spend on food, but we ended up spending $500,000, so to make up that $200,000 came directly out of our reserves," he said.

The food banks have also seen a 103 per cent increase in students requesting support.

Nichol says its program for grade-school students is facing a financial hit.

"We were getting support from the provincial government to run our Mindful Munchies program, which has really grown out of our programs and unfortunately, the province has announced that will no longer be happening," Nichol said.

The University of Lethbridge Students' Union (ULSU) has been inundated with requests for support.

"From September 2022 to September 2023, there's been a 360 per cent increase in usage," said Maleeka Thomas, ULSU president.

About 350 students are using the food bank on campus and receiving grocery cards.

Thomas says food insecurity for students is more than just feeling hungry.

"We have seen an increase in the usage of, for example, counselling services, because if students don't have access to food and the necessities they need to strive in school, then it's going to keep on being an issue where it drains their mental health," she said.

The food banks expect the early wildfire season and drought this year will likely further impact the number of people needing support.

Along with food and monetary donations, Nichol says both food banks are actively recruiting more volunteers heading into the spring and summer.