Using meals banks in London is rising nearly to pre-pandemic ranges

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Heather rivers Bruce Walker, London Food Bank volunteer, hopes Londoners will be generous during the charity’s Thanksgiving food drive that kicks off Friday. The board has recorded the highest usage since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than 18 months ago. (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press)

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On the first day of school last month, the London Food Bank saw a flood of new visitors.

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It was not an isolated incident, officials say.

When the food bank launched its fall grocery campaign on Friday, it was dealing with the highest demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than 18 months ago, says its deputy director.

“We saw 205 families the day after Labor Day,” said Jane Roy. “We hadn’t seen that about the start of the pandemic in 18 months, so it’s getting busier.”

The numbers suggest increasing demand as the pandemic, now in its fourth wave but with many restrictions relaxed, approaches its second year.

In September 2019, months before the virus crisis was declared, 3,318 families used the blackboard.

A year later, in 2020, in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic and while government aid programs were in full swing, the number dropped to 2,619 families for the same month.

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Last month the number rose to more than 3,000 families.

Rising cost of living, additional spending as the economy reopens, and easing government programs to help people cope with the financial impact of COVID-19 are factors in the food bank’s gradual return to pre-pandemic levels, Roy said.

“House prices have skyrocketed so people’s disposable income for things like food has decreased,” she said.

“We had expected a bigger increase in September, but in the last few months the number of people in need has improved. I also think that people are a little bit more out there and the more activities there are, the more expenses (people have). “

The food bank has seen the number of people in need of food increase by about 22 percent compared to that time, Roy said.

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Much of that need is due to the fact that government support has waned, she said.

But not only families need help.

“Now we’re seeing an increase in university students,” said Roy. “You paid a lot in tuition fees. Now they are trying to make ends meet. “

Roy isn’t the only one to notice a return to pre-pandemic demand levels from people in need.

Abe Oudshoorn, a nursing professor at Western University who worked with the Crouch Neighborhood Resource Center on a study on homelessness and poverty, said many people would “do anything to stay home” during the pandemic.

“We are definitely seeing more people returning to the services they were familiar with,” he said. “One factor is that people just come back out.”

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But their research found that there are two specific groups of people who “have increased needs,” he said.

These include those who are not permanently employed, such as Uber drivers, as well as those on fixed incomes who are struggling with higher food prices due to inflation, he said.

Inflation in Canada is around four percent, an 18-year high.

“We haven’t seen an increase in welfare in a number of years, after some relatively minor increases by the previous Liberal government,” Oudshoorn said.

The Thanksgiving food promotion kicks off on Friday at the Northwest London Resource Center in Sherwood Forest Mall.

While the campaign is viewed as virtual, cash donations are accepted online, but food donations are also accepted in grocery stores, Roy said.

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The Tafel has sales offices in North and South London as well as LUSO Community Services and the Crouch Neighborhood Resource Center in St. George’s Anglican Church.

Last year’s Thanksgiving drive brought in about 27,408 kilograms of food, including $ 111,000 in cash donations, the food bank estimates.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FROM LONDON FOOD BANK

– Runs Friday through October 11th, Thanksgiving Monday.

– Donations can be made at londonfoodbank.ca.

– Food donations will be accepted in participating grocery stores.

– Fresh produce is sold at the grocery bank at 926 Leathorne St.

– Wanted foods are pasta, cereals, rice and canned fish.

– Lunch snacks are needed as well as non-food items such as feminine hygiene products and toiletries.

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