Food Bank usage continues to increase
The colder seasons are crucial times of collection for food banks across the country. Non-perishable donations surge in during “Turkey Drives” throughout the fall, Halloween for Hunger and Christmas donations throughout fall and winter.
According to Hunger Count, the annual release of national food bank statistics by Food Banks Canada, the need at this time is extremely crucial in comparison to previous years.
In Ontario, food bank usage has increased by 25.7 per cent between 2008 and 2011, a statistic which the Canadian Food Bank attributes largely to financial difficulties experienced since the 2008 recession.
Increased need, however, has also been met with greater contributions, said Food Banks Canada director of communications Marzena Gersho.
“What we do know is that during times of great challenge, and certainly over the last number of years, during the recession, Canadians have really stepped up,” she said.
“Food Banks Canada has seen strong support from the corporate community, and we believe this is happening at the local level as well.”
Provincial and national numbers appear to correspond with needs at the campus level. According to Wilfrid Laurier University’s Student Foodbank co-coordinator Josh Proksch, this year has seen an increase in drop-offs by 54 per cent. Co-coordinator Catherine Koene believes this is a “combination of both” increased awareness of services and greater financial distress.
Needs do vary at different times of the month, such as when rent is due, and later in the year, as savings diminish and finances are stretched further for many students.
Proksch acknowledged, “We definitely see deliveries increase as we get closer to the exam period, whether it be the stress of not being able to get out and pick up food yourself or just money running low on your meal plans, or whatever it may be.”
Unlike many other campuses, Laurier’s Student Food Bank is operated on a basis of anonymity, allowing students to retain their privacy and dignity.
However, as Proksch aptly noted, the use of food bank services is “not something that you should be ashamed of, or be embarrassed about.”
He added, “If you’re not eating, you’re not performing to your full potential at school, you’re not going to make the best choices; it’s something that you need to function.”
Regional statistics, in contradiction to the increasing needs outlined above, are more stable.
Ruth Friendship-Keller, the Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s manager of community partnerships, said that in her six years of local experience, food bank use has stayed fairly consistent at about five per cent of the Region’s population.
They’ve distributed approximately 18,000 lbs of non-perishable food items weekly.
“To me that says it’s not any one thing … it’s a whole bunch of different things that come into play, and it’s just a series of circumstances that could lead someone or a family to needing help from an agency,” Friendship-Keller explained.
With food bank demands being met not only nationally, but also at a campus and local level, generosity and compassion seem to be on the rise as well.
“Waterloo Region is an amazingly supportive community to live in,” concluded Friendship-Keller.
“There are good stories everyday about how people are looking out for their neighbours.
“We’re very lucky to live here.”