Ottawa Food Bank sees record usage
The Ottawa Food Bank reports record usage in March as rising inflation continues to make groceries more expensive.
The food bank recorded the highest service figures in its 38-year history, with a 39% increase in demand for local food banks compared to 2017. March figures also indicate a 20% increase in the service compared to the same period last year, the agency said in a press release.
Ottawa Food Bank CEO Rachel Wilson told CTV News at noon that these are unprecedented numbers.
“Before the pandemic, we were serving about 39,000 people each month. We are now close to 52,000 people each month turning to a food bank in Ottawa,” she said.
The Ottawa Food Bank says the food bank was originally designed to provide temporary emergency support in times of exceptional need, but now the cost of living is driving up grocery bills, meaning many more and more people are turning to the food bank.
“About 60% of clients are on social assistance and those rates haven’t kept pace with inflation. It is nearly impossible for these individuals and families to buy the food they desperately need,” Wilson said.
She added that food is often the first thing people cut back on during lean times.
“You can’t miss your rent; you can’t miss your heating bills, so the first thing to go is usually food. You can buy cheap food, but we really want people to have access to healthy, nutritious food.
The food bank is asking for sustainable government funding to ensure it can provide meals to anyone in need.
“Our sector is one of the few that does not receive any sort of sustainable funding from the provincial or federal government,” Wilson said. “This election is so important for us right now to vote for candidates who are committed to reducing food insecurity here in Ottawa.”
The Ottawa Food Bank works with 108 member organizations that help deliver food to those in need. Wilson says these small food banks and support groups struggle daily to keep food on their shelves and she says the need for donations is high.
“We need people donating online, donating in kind at grocery stores and most importantly making sure people vote this election to make sure we end legislated poverty here in Ottawa. and throughout the province.
Donations can be made online or at most grocery stores. Wilson says the Ottawa Food Bank’s wholesale buying power allows it to turn $1 of public donations into $5 of food, especially fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy products, which cannot be given.