More people are using downtown food banks

More people are looking for help when it comes to meals in Timmins.

There has been an increase in new clients accessing the food bank and hot meals at the First Baptist Church, says food bank co-ordinator Amber Elliott.

“We just keep adding to it,” she said. “We don’t really lose people, so if there’s an increase, it's because we still have the old people, and we’re getting new ones as well.”

A report from Feed Ontario shows that food bank use has increased by 38 per cent in the last year, and local food banks are seeing a similar rise in clients to the provincial average, said Elliott.

The Timmins Food Bank has also seen an increase in usership.

"We're up around 35 per cent," said Rick Young, Timmins Food Bank's chairman.

He said they're seeing more single people and fewer families coming to collect groceries, as well as more students.

“We’re all on the same page,” Elliott said.

More than 800,000 people in Ontario accessed emergency food services between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023, according to the report.

As the holiday season gets closer, the First Baptist Church food bank is looking for donations to make the season a little brighter. They’ve set a goal to collect 150 canned hams to give out to their clients for special dinners.

“We want to be able to give canned hams, instant mashed potatoes, Vachon cakes, and canned vegetables,” she said. “Then we’re doing a Christmas ham dinner on the 19th and a takeout-style Christmas turkey dinner on the 22nd.”

The Timmins Food Bank is also looking for canned fruit and vegetables, and canned meat.

They are asking that donated items only require water as an additional ingredient because things like milk and butter can be difficult to get. Items like canned soups, canned vegetables, are always in high demand.

The church serves warm meals on Tuesdays and offers groceries on Fridays to those who need the help. Volunteers are welcome on Thursday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. to help prepare the meals. Timmins Food Bank gives out pre-made meals to those without a way to cook on a weekly basis.

People accessing Ontario's food banks must present ID and proof of income on their first visit and can only access one food bank in 28 days.

Elliot said they see anywhere from 100 to 200 people accessing help through the First Baptist Church during their service times.

“Tuesday is always the heaviest, and we’re averaging usually around 150,” she said.

Young said they're seeing similar numbers.

"We open on Wednesday, and it's between 135 to 160 people," he said. "They're lined up to the gate."

Young said that the volunteers are the unsung heroes when it comes to these services.

The total number of visits to food banks increased by 36 per cent, with 5.9 million visits province-wide.

“It’ll only go up in December because if anyone has any extra money at all, it’ll go toward Christmas,” she said.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,