West Lincoln Community Care (WLCC) is launching its annual food drive on April 28, as demand for the food bank has surged since the pandemic.
WLCC has seen a large rise in demand for its services recently, as the fallout from the pandemic and inflation puts financial pressure on households and individuals.
Since the start of the pandemic, the WLCC estimates that there has been a 50 per cent rise in visits to the food bank, and March 2022 was the busiest month since the start of coronavirus.
As part of the food drive, brown paper bags will be sent around the community for donors to fill up before May 14. Volunteers will then collect the filled bags within Smithville town limits, and those living outside Smithville can drop off the bags at the food bank at 2660 Industrial Park Rd., Smithville.
Last year, the food bank received 8,783 pounds of donations and the WLCC hopes to match that figure this year.
Donations increased at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, but this has been decreasing recently, admits food bank manager Sharlene Volpatti.
“Donations increased a lot at the start of the pandemic,” she said. “But recently there have been fewer donations since people need to tighten their own purse-strings.”
The food bank offers more than just food. It also offers housing support, kids sports and recreation opportunities, free financial counselling and subsidized mental health support with a psychotherapist.
Pet food is also available from the food bank, which is important since some people who access WLCC’s services for mental health support have emotional support animals.
Amanda King, director of network and government relations with Feed Ontario, said the increase in food bank usage is “unfortunately not something that is surprising.”
King explained that Niagara was particularly hard hit by the pandemic because many jobs are supported by the tourism industry, which declined, leading to a reduction in employment.
Feed Ontario found that September 2021 saw a 32 per cent rise in food bank use across the province compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Senior citizens are the fastest-growing demographic of food bank users, since their fixed income does not have the same purchasing power as it did before inflation started to rise.
Food banks have the additional problem that their own budgets don’t stretch as far as they did, meaning they are not able to buy as much food as before.
King said the problem is something that is going to escalate as inflation keeps rising, and that “food banks themselves are not a solution to food poverty.”
Instead, King explained that good governmental policy is required to increase social assistance, invest in quality housing and increase quality employment opportunities. She encouraged people concerned with the issue to contact their MPP about affordability and access to quality income.
Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News