Demand for food banks in tornado-struck areas soars

In the weeks after several tornadoes struck the region, the number of residents turning to food banks in the most heavily damaged areas has risen by about 33 per cent, according to Ottawa Food Bank CEO Michael Maidment. 

Maidment spoke at a special city council meeting dedicated to tornado relief efforts on Thursday. 

The Ottawa Food Bank supports a network of community food banks, 11 of which were directly affected by power outages caused by the tornadoes, Maidment said. 

In the weeks after the tornadoes, food bank use in and around the affected areas saw an increase of about one-third over the same period last year.

Around 9,500 people visited the 11 food banks specifically in the weeks after the tornado, up from about 8,000 visitors seen last year.

The one-two combination of spoiled food and increased demand took its toll on the food banks, Maidment said.

"In addition to replacing the perishable food that those organizations lost, those organizations have seen a sharp increase in the number of people seeking assistance as those people replace their own food."

"We have heard from the local community that there have been many first-time visits to food banks specifically in those areas."  

CBC

The number of hampers delivered to the community also increased dramatically, jumping to 19,679 from last year's 8,302, according to a report released by the organization at the end of October

Preparing for the holidays

Maidment said he's now concerned about how the increased demand might affect the ability of food banks to support residents as the Christmas season gets underway. 

The organization has set aside $105,000 in one-time funding to support the 11 locations most affected by the increased demand, the report said.  

According to the report, community food banks were directed to alter their normal service guidelines in the two weeks after the tornadoes struck, eliminating limits on how often families could access food. 

Geographic limits were also suspended, so residents were able to visit any food bank that was convenient. 

The affected food banks include:

  • Banff Community House.
  • Bethel Care Centre.
  • Britannia Woods Community House.
  • Caldwell Family Centre.
  • Debra Dynes Family House.
  • Foster Farm Family House.
  • Heron Emergency Food.
  • Morrison Gardens Emergency Food Centre.
  • Pavilion Food Bank.
  • Pinecrest Terrace Family House.
  • Westboro Region Food Service.

That money will also help support several programs that are not part of the Ottawa Food Bank network, including the Barrhaven Food Cupboard and the West Carleton Food Access Centre, the report said. 

A further $100,000 has been earmarked to support the organization's network of food banks as tornado relief efforts continue. 

In total, the Ottawa Food Bank has spent $798,000 on tornado relief efforts, including the purchase of grocery gift cards for needy families, delivery costs and the purchase of a generator for the organization's warehouse.