Lo­cal food banks feel­ing post-Christ­mas do­na­tion lull

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NATALIE PADDON

The giv­ing slows down af­ter Christ­mas but the need doesn’t stop.

Lo­cal food agen­cies are feel­ing the pinch as sup­plies con­tinue to dwin­dle de­spite the fact that hunger still per­sists.

“Af­ter the Christ­mas hol­i­days, where we see a huge in­crease in do­na­tions that we get, there’s def­i­nitely a bit of a lull,” said Karen Ran­dell, man­ager of so­cial ser­vices for St. Matthew’s House.

“Us­age doesn’t ever go down, so then we’re put in a sit­u­a­tion where we have to then pur­chase food for the food banks, which is what we’re do­ing right now.”

St. Matthew’s House dips into its op­er­at­ing bud­get to pur­chase the food needed to meet the de­mand of its clients, Ran­dell said.

That’s why food drives like the An­caster Com­mu­nity Food Drive are so cru­cial both to re­plen­ish stock but also to raise aware­ness, she said.

Now in its 25th year, the drive col­lects food and funds to de­liver to the city’s ma­jor food agen­cies, in­clud­ing An­caster Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, Hamil­ton Food Share and Neigh­bour to Neigh­bour.

In the past 24 years, more than 1.4 mil­lion pounds of food has been col­lected.

This year, food items will be picked up from schools and donors on March 2, and do­na­tions will be col­lected by vol­un­teers go­ing doorto-door on March 4.

The drive comes at a time when peo­ple are get­ting their postChrist­mas bills and might be more strapped for cash than usual, said Sh­eryl Bolton, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of ad­dic­tions and com­mu­nity ser­vices for Mis­sion Ser­vices of Hamil­ton. “It’s hard,” she said. “You have to pay all your Visas and your MasterCards off, and then what are you stuck with? Your kids are hun­gry.”

With­out be­ing prompted, peo­ple don’t al­ways give in Jan­uary be­cause they have of­ten fo­cused their do­na­tions around the hol­i­day sea­son, she said.

While Mis­sion Ser­vices has food to hand out, the ques­tion of whether it’s enough is hard to an­swer, Bolton said.

Food bank us­age is chang­ing. In the past, Christ­mas do­na­tions could be stretched out a lit­tle longer but not so now.

“If the num­bers were lower, it would last a lit­tle longer, but our num­bers are in­creas­ing all the time,” she said.

“With rents go­ing up, with util­i­ties go­ing up, with the cost of food go­ing up, peo­ple are ac­cess­ing the food banks.

“Not just peo­ple on OW or ODSP. It’s work­ing fam­i­lies that are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties mak­ing ends meet.”

Mis­sion Ser­vices never turns any­one away, Bolton said, but de­pend­ing on what re­sources they have avail­able, they would al­ter how many days worth of food they’re hand­ing out.

At this point, they’re giv­ing out about three days worth at a time, she said.

Some of the items needed at all of the lo­cal food agen­cies in­clude peanut but­ter, meat soups, canned meats and fish, baby food and for­mula (with at least eight weeks to go un­til its ex­piry date), and hot ce­re­als. For more in­for­ma­tion about the An­caster Com­mu­nity Food Drive, con­tact an­caser­com­mu­ni­ty­food­drive@gmail.com or visit an­cast­er­food­drive.ca.

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