Job losses, higher food prices push more people to use city's food banks

·2 min read
The Caldwell Family Centre says it's seen an unprecedented increase in the need for food this year.  Since January, the number of meals they've served increased 178%, and the number of grocery food boxes given out increased 188%. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
The Caldwell Family Centre says it's seen an unprecedented increase in the need for food this year. Since January, the number of meals they've served increased 178%, and the number of grocery food boxes given out increased 188%. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Ottawa food programs say they're seeing an unprecedented need for their services due to rising food prices and families facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic.

The number of people seeking meals and grocery boxes throught the Caldwell Family Centre has doubled since January, said Marilyn Matheson, the centre's executive director.

"All the food programs in Ottawa are facing similar situations. We've all noticed that the lineups start earlier in the day and earlier in the month," she said.

Around 500 meals a day are typically handed out through the centre's food program, a number Matheson only expects to increase throughout the winter.

She said many of the new clients using the food bank haven't been able to return to work and are struggling to recover financially from the pandemic.

"It's hard to make ends meet and the price of food has skyrocketed, and if anybody's been to a supermarket lately you'll notice that," she said.

With the number of new people depending on the centre each month, Matheson said it's put pressure on their budget and highlighted a need for more volunteers.

The Parkdale Food Centre is facing a similar problem.

"We're scared right now. We're scared on a whole bunch of levels," said Karen Secord, the centre's executive director.

There's also an added challenge in helping people during a pandemic, she said, including having to respect social distancing rules for indoor dining. It's proving costly, especially during the colder months.

"The winter is coming and so we're paying $600 for a big top tent that we've put in our parking lot so that we can be giving out meals underneath there," she said.

Between the various food programs on offer, the Parkdale Food Centre provides between 4,000 to 5,000 meals a week to those in need.

Secord said the demand is the highest she's seen in the nine years she's been with the centre.

About half the centre's clients are coming from the far ends of the city, because many have already gone to their local food banks which are getting cleared out, said Secord.

"They're coming to us because they can't get food anywhere else."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting