For the first time in two years, the London Food Bank is welcoming food donations in addition to cash donations for its annual spring food drive. While the pandemic has already exacerbated hunger in the community and across Canada, officials say the situation has only become more critical due to the rising cost of living.
The Tafel is catering to more hungry people than ever before, said Glen Pearson, co-director of the Tafel, adding that 27 percent of this year’s customers are people who are accessing the Tafel for the first time.
“We’ve never been close to it, not even half of it, and the 73 percent or so that come regularly come more often,” he said.
In the first three months of 2022, an average of 3,505 families accessed the board each month.
While food banks across the country have already been in crisis mode due to the strain of the ongoing pandemic, the hardship has only worsened with the rising cost of living.
“In the past, you’ve seen people who came to the panels get welfare…but the reality now is that it’s not just those people,” Pearson said. “It’s people who work, people who work two jobs, people who try to care for aging parents at home and just can’t afford the bills.
“It’s kind of everyone you know.”
The alarming new numbers should serve as a call to action and encourage people to speak out about the challenges the community is facing because of the cost of living, Pearson said.
“The general public will donate, as they always do, but I hope they also raise their voices a little and say, ‘What can be done about the housing shortage? What can be done about the homeless?’ We need people to raise their voices, and the people of Ottawa, Queens Park and here at City Hall need to hear those voices,” he said.
“The high cost of housing is driving people to Tafel, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”
The Spring Food Drive
For the 35th annual Spring Food Drive, the food bank will be adopting a hybrid model. This means that both food and cash donations can be made.
Londoners are being asked to donate food at all major grocery stores or donate money online.
Foods that can be donated should be non-perishable foods, including peanut butter, rice, baby food and formula, soups, vegetables, bean juice, canned meat and fish, pasta and pasta sauces, convenience foods, and other dry items such as powdered milk, cereal, and crackers.
Since the pandemic began, donations to annual food drives have exceeded previous years, but Pearson said he understands if that’s not the case this year.
“We’ve never had any doubts about the public, and we don’t have any doubts about the public now,” Pearson said of the expected support this year. “But it’s not based on sums, it’s based on [people’s] Capacity. And I think at the moment a lot of people are having problems with their capacity. So if we don’t get as much as last year, we can totally understand that.
“But if people have some left over and they can come and get it, that’s great. That makes London London. It was never about sums. It was always about compassion.”