Food Bank visits up slightly in the past year

·3 min read

Unlike other food banks across the province, the Kincardine Food Bank hasn’t seen a huge increase in the number of visitors since the pandemic broke, but numbers are up slightly.

In 2019, visits to the Food Bank totaled 2,475, and rose to 2,640 in 2020. The majority of clients are singles, with 544 visits in 2019 and 562 in 2020. The number of families using the Food Bank went down, from 402 in 2019 to 394 in 2020. Seniors aged 60 plus, saw 150 visits in 2019 and 182 visits in 2020.

According to the Feed Ontario Hunger Report 2020, food bank use across the province saw a 26 per cent increase in first-time visitors between March and June 2020. The report predicts that as government supports wind down, food bank use will increase rapidly, and says one out of two 2 food bank visitors are worried about eviction or defaulting on their mortgage in the next two to six months, and 93 per cent borrowed money from friends and family, accessed a payday loan, or used a credit card to help pay for monthly necessities.

“We didn’t notice any difference really,” said co-chair Nancy Dawson, who believes the extra money provided by the government during the pandemic helped people make ends meet.

Co-chair Pat Stewart agreed, and said “I expected more.”

The women credit a generous community for keeping the doors open and the shelves full.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” said Stewart. “We rely solely on community support and donations.”

The Food Bank continued to operate through the holidays, and was open as usual on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Dawson said “we never close.”

Food Bank clients are encouraged to limit their visits to once per month, although Stewart says they would never turn anyone away who was in need.

During their first visit, the new client will fill out a form detailing their name, number of people they are feeding, likes, dislikes, allergies and other information. Stewart says they do this to ensure the client is given enough food and to minimize waste. Once registered, clients are given a gift card to purchase perishable items, such as milk.

In keeping with recommendations from Public Health, the Food Bank has had to establish a number of precautions and protocols to protect the health of both volunteers and clients. Everyone entering the Food Bank is required to wear a three-ply face mask, use sanitizer and have their temperature taken. Chairs and tables of food have been spaced far apart, in keeping with the two-metre distancing recommendation. Volunteers are constantly sanitizing chairs and table tops, and all volunteers are required to wear face shields.

Dawson said the team of about 25 volunteers is the backbone of the Food Bank.

“We have incredible volunteers that are here in a minute if we need them.”

Both women agree there is no “profile” of a client who uses the Food Bank. Some of the people have been clients for years, while others are one or two-time users. Dawson described a client who had a large automotive repair bill and simply had no money left for food, or a couple who, after moving to the area and paying first and last month’s rent, didn’t have money for groceries.

“(The Food Bank) is an absolute necessity,” said Dawson. “There is no common denominator. They don’t have any money and they are hungry.”

And occasionally, clients find themselves in a better situation and donate groceries to the Food Bank, giving back to a service that helped them when they needed it.

Donations of money, gift cards and non-perishable, non-expired food items are always welcome. Contact the Kincardine Food Bank for details by emailing pat@bmts.com or telephone the Anglican Church of the Messiah at 519-396-2185, and the message will be passed on to Dawson and Stewart.

Tammy Lindsay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent