St. John's food bank raises at least $17K at benefit concert
The director of a St. John's food bank says the donations raised from one benefit concert will help feed an ever-growing portion of the city's population.
Bridges to Hope held a charity event Thursday evening at the Gower Street United Church in St. John's that saw performances from artists Alan Doyle, Rachel Cousins, Nick Earle and Kelly McMichael.
Jody Williams, the director of the food bank, says 400 tickets were sold and $17,000 was raised before the show began.
"I kind of needed this lift," said Williams. "I've been going through a hard time.… The last few months have been really overwhelming. I've been struggling personally with not taking my job home with me. We're seeing record numbers."
Before the pandemic, Williams said, a busy day at the pantry would see 30 people lined up for food hampers — but now Bridges to Hope is seeing almost 100 people every day.
What concerns him most is the growing number of newcomers. The food bank used to see a couple of new faces a month — in just one day last week, Williams said, 14 people came to Bridges to Hope who had previously never been to a food bank.
"We're in the perfect storm," said Williams. "We have an income that's not high enough for people to live off, and we have food prices that are way too high for people, even if you are lower middle class."
Singing for a cause
Because the benefit concert was such a success, said Williams, the food bank plans to make it an annual event.
Thursday's show was a songwriters circle, a performance in which a series of artists sit together on stage, perform one of their original songs, and then explain to audiences the message behind the song and what it means to them.
Rachel Cousins, a St. John's singer-songwriter who spent last Friday morning volunteering at Bridges to Hope, said she had time to reflect on the experience before her performance and she's begun to think more critically about the food crisis facing Newfoundlanders.
One of the songs she performed Thursday was Hope to Bring, which she co-wrote with Newfoundland artists Virginia Fudge and Lorna Lovell. Cousins said the song explores the privilege of ignoring issues that don't directly relate to one's own lived experiences.
However, she says, music can change that.
"Although it is scary and it's the ugly truth, it's genuinely what needs to be put out there and what people need to listen to," said Cousins. "Otherwise, there will never be a change made."
St. John's musician Nick Earle, who also performed Thursday, said he's felt the impact of rising home heating and grocery bills. He said it was heartwarming to see artists gather together to sing for a cause, and hopes the money raised goes a long way.
"If me sharing some of my music can help someone else out, that's the best thing in the world," said Earle.
"We look for art as an escape, but you know, you don't always get to use it directly to support a cause. So if by me sharing my music today, I can impact someone directly, I don't think there's anything more fulfilling than that really."