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Plans to expand food access for the needy in London, Ontario took a giant step on Monday when the London Food Bank opened the first center of their new neighborhood food distribution system.

The first of nine upcoming expansions to the London Food Bank was hosted by the South London Neighborhood Resource Center (SLNRC).

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According to Nancy Needham, executive director of the SLNRC, on opening day at their location in the South London Community Center, staff were distributing groceries to 47 people.

“Now that we are the neighborhood grocery bank, the people who are receiving assistance today would be getting more than they normally would have received in the past,” Needham said.

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“We used to have an emergency food cabinet where you had enough for a hearty meal … but now that we are tied to the London Food Bank, you and your family can get enough food for several days.”

Needham added that another benefit of the partnership is the ability to connect visitors to the food program with the other services that SLNRC offers.

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“We also offer you support and connections to our youth programs, our settlement services, and our early years program – lots of connections for the whole family to help them get out of poverty,” Needham said.

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Mary Ann McDowell, London Food Bank operations coordinator, says the first day at SLNRC was hiccup free, which gives her confidence when the rest of the Food Bank’s planned expansions will open.

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These upcoming locations include the Northwest London Resource Center, Crouch Neighborhood Resource Center, Glen Cairn Community Resource Center and LUSO Community Services.

The YMCA in Southwest Ontario also offers the Center Branch, the Bostwick Community Center, the Stoney Creek Community Center, and the Bob Hayward YMCA

“This type of program is great for us because we know that transportation is a real barrier for people,” said McDowell.

“We had to think creatively about how things are going to work. I’m sure there has to be more creative thinking, but we will surely face that when we leave.”

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In the meantime, the SLNRC will provide food access Monday through Friday between 10am and 3pm

Needham expects SLNRC attendance to increase in the coming days after serving dozens of people during the launch.

“As soon as people know there is service and support in the community, they tell others.”

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