UK – Tripling in foodbank usage

Tripling in foodbank usage


Local food bank drive, doesn’t make it.

The Owen Sound Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive has seen an “unprecedented” drop in the amount of food collected this year.

During the drive, which wrapped up Monday, under 10,000 pounds of food was collected, well below the organization’s goal of 28,000 pounds.

“It is probably an unprecedented drop for us,” Alice Wannan, the Owen Sound Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator, said Tuesday morning. “Our goal was 28,000 and as of this morning we have hit 9,239.”

Wannan said the final numbers from the drive had been tallied up Tuesday morning and there were not yet any plans on how the Salvation Army intends to make up the shortfall.

Update here

As of Tuesday morning, Wannan says the Food Bank tallied only 9239 pounds of food.

The money collected from the kettle drive came in at $6979.13 —  which equates to approximately 2791 pounds of food.

The power of food – Food banks evolve into community centres inspiring social change


They don’t work.

By simply handing out emergency hampers of donated food and sending people on their way, food banks to do little to solve or even address the profound problems of hunger or poverty, say veterans of these community organizations.

“In a way, giving out food is a bit of a black hole,” said Kimberly Martin, executive director of the NDG Food Depot.

“A Band-Aid solution,” said Nick Saul. When he took over as executive director of a Toronto food bank known as The Stop in 1998, it was a cramped and dreary space focused on what he called “a single demoralizing transaction”: handouts of food hampers featuring tired produce, overly salty canned goods and mislabelled food industry castoffs.

But on his 14-year watch, The Stop became something else entirely. It expanded to include among its services a garden, communal dining and cooking initiatives, a health and nutrition group for low-income pregnant women, breakfast and lunch drop-ins, education programs for children and civic engagement projects.

It went from being about service delivery to being about community and social change, as he and Andrea Curtis observe in The Stop: How the Fight For Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement (Random House Canada, 2013), a deeply human and inspiring story.

“Food is this powerful way to connect with people,” Saul said in an interview. “In eating with others, you can build community and you can express your background and culture. It’s a good way to do community organizing, a good way to get at big issues.”

The Stop has come “a long way from when we offered members wilted iceberg lettuce,” he writes. “The Stop is truly a place where people come to cook, grow, eat, learn about and advocate for good food.”

When Saul started, it had a staff of five and a $200,000 budget. When he left in 2012, there was a staff of 40 in place, a budget of $4.5 million and 300 volunteers.

Saul’s work now is to try to replicate the innovation he brought to The Stop in other Canadian communities. Since last summer, he has been president and CEO of a new organization known as Community Food Centres Canada; the hope is to create a national movement in which food banks are replaced by community food centres.

Food banks, which became widespread during the economic recession of the early 1980s, were intended as a stopgap measure, Saul explained. But they’re still here.

And people are still hungry.

“Food bank use continues to rise dramatically. And hundreds of thousands of people — including many children — in towns and cities across the continent report that they don’t know where their next meal will come from,” he writes. (Although Saul and Curtis, an award-winning writer and editor, wrote the book together, the book is written in his voice.)

“Indeed, instead of regarding food banks as the embodiment of a good deed — a compassionate response to hunger in an affluent society — I think we should view these small, ephemeral, volunteer-run places serving up inadequate, unhealthy food as symbols of the breakdown of our social fabric, the end of whatever collective understanding we have about our responsibility to each other.”

More people are paying more attention these days to what they are eating; television chefs are rock stars. But as in other areas, a class divide endures.

“The rich and middle class get organic — and the poor get diabetes,” Saul said. There is proportionately more diabetes and heart disease in low-income communities, he said.

“If we agree that good food is best, we have to figure out a way to ensure that everyone has access to it. We are trying to view food less as a commodity and more as a public good.”

The Stop still operates a food bank, but “it’s only one in a complete roster of food programs, all aimed at meeting people where they’re at and also working toward larger political and social change,” he writes. “This marriage of advocacy with community-driven programs makes us very different.”

To test whether the model of the community food centre “had legs,” two pilot projects were established in Stratford and Perth. Other community food centres are slated to open this year and next — in the Regent Park neighbourhood of Toronto, in Dartmouth and in Winnipeg. The hope is to open three centres a year for the next five years, for a total of 15.

More than half of a $20-million fundraising goal has been reached, with funders including the Sprott Foundation, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Metcalfe Foundation, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Ontario’s Trillum Foundation, BMO, Greenshields Canada and the Borden Ladner Gervais law firm. Le Creuset Canada has agreed to equip the future kitchens with cookware.

To be considered as a community food centre, an organization must already be a strong presence in the community, Saul explained. The role of Community Food Centres Canada is to nurture prospective partners and help them.

The centres feature what he described as three “buckets” of programs: a dignified emergency or healthy food program, such as a drop-in meal program; a food skills component, such as a community garden, a kitchen and after-school programs; an engagement and education component, such as community action groups and peer advocacy to support people as they speak out.

“It’s to get to systemic change,” he said. “The vehicle is a good meal, but the underlying question is ‘Why are these people marginal?’”

The NDG Food Depot would like to become part of the Community Food Centre network; although the door is open to a collaboration, “there are a lot of components to get into place first, before we are eligible,” director Martin said.

One is to find a space of its own — in NDG. With a kitchen. And access to green space.

“We are big believers that the physical drives the social,” Saul said. It is important, he said, that these community food centres be “dignified spaces that aren’t in basements with flickering fluorescent lights.”

The NDG Food depot “has its momentum and it knows what it is doing,” said Saul, who has had conversations over the years with the directors of the NDG Food Depot. “I hope they would say I have been a helpful voice.

“We are supportive of their work. With our expertise, supporting them with program systems, the model and fundraising, and with their long-standing trusting relationships, there is a possibility for doing something really interesting.”

Focus groups are being held with clients, so that decisions can be made based on the needs of the people who actually use the food depot.

It’s about “creating programming and shifting things based on what they are saying,” Martin said. “We want to do more relationship building, community building and work around sustainability.”

But sometimes life gets in the way of the best-laid plans. The NDG Food Depot has had to move twice in the past six months, the first time with two weeks’ notice from a rented space at Oxford Ave. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. it had occupied for 20 years. It recently signed a one-year lease in the basement of Trinity Memorial Church on Marlowe Ave. below Sherbrooke St., as the search continues for a permanent location.

Participation in the cooking program, which began in 2009, has dropped — not surprising considering the two moves — but is being rebuilt.

“We want people to stay and share a meal together,” Martin said. “Ideally, it would be a meal cooked by a group. We are going to start with volunteers cooking and inviting people who are here for baskets to come in for a meal.”

Users have suggested that one way of helping to create community could be with cooking classes based on the cuisine of cultural communities whose members use the depot.

There are always people who need emergency food, but over the past few years, there has been a shift away from the organization operating almost exclusively as a food bank, Martin said.

Used to be, people would just come in for their food baskets and leave, said development director Bonnie Soutar. “Now we ask them, ‘How else can we help you?’”

People struggle with issues from loneliness to mental health difficulties as they struggle to live on impossibly low income, she said. Half the clients receive social assistance. Many are socially isolated. Some are new to the country. Some speak no French. Some are older adults without up-to-date skills.

“We try to work with people one to one,” Soutar said. “It is how we are dealing with hunger and poverty.”

For more on Community Food Centres Canada,

The NDG Food Depot is at 2146 Marlowe Ave.,

Hunger is toxic for those living through it – HungerCount Report 2012

Hunger Count 2012: a comprehensive report on hunger and food bank use in Canada, and recommendations for change.

We posted the earlier report for Ontario and this additional report provides a summary across Canada and key recommendations.

In Rural Ontario

  • 42% people accessing food banks are women followed by 17.1% aboriginal persons
  • 39.7 % are single people and 23.8% are two-parent families
  • 39.3 are on social assistance and 33.6 on disability-related income support; 10.8% are wage earners
  • 67.3 are rental market tenants and 15.2% are social housing tenants

The key factor at the root of the need for food banks is low income, whether in the short or long term. People asking for help are working in low-paying jobs, receiving meagre social assistance benefits, managing on inadequate pensions.

They face rising costs related to food, housing, and energy. In the current economy, they are worried that things are not going to get better.

These issues have a deep impact. Hunger is toxic for those living through it, and it is harmful to Canada as a whole. It reduces the economic contributions of individuals, and increases costs related to health care and social services. To address it, we need to be smarter about helping people become more self-sufficient, and we need to be more supportive of those who need help over the longer term.

HungerCount offers 5 key recommendations:

1. Increase federal investment in affordable housing, so that people are not forced to choose between paying rent or buying food.

2. Establish a Northern Food Security Innovation Fund, comprehensive territorial school breakfast programs, and new community infrastructure, to help address the incredibly high levels of household food insecurity in the territories.

3. Improve the Guaranteed Income Supplement so that no senior falls below the poverty line.

4. At the provincial government level, make significant changes to social assistance, so that the program helps people to live with dignity and get back on their feet.

5. Increase the value, and broaden eligibility for the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), and increase investment in education and training for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in Canada who are not able to access Employment Insurance benefits.


Put Food in the Budget campaign – World Hunger Day on Tuesday May 28

May 31, 2013

The Put Food in the Budget campaign organized a unique event to recognize World Hunger Day on Tuesday May 28.

The Put Food in the Budget campaign has learned over the course of our campaign that hundreds of thousands of people are hungry at every stage of life in Ontario because their income is too low. They don’t have enough money to pay the rent and buy food.

Front line workers from public service unions and student, worker and volunteer associations told an audience of high school students about people they serve that do not have enough income to provide nutritious food to their families.

The over-riding message from these stories is that people in Ontario now can literally be ‘Hungry for Life’. ‘Hungry for life’ has two meanings. Young people in high school are on the brink of beginning their adult lives. We all want our young people to thrive and to be hopeful about the future. We want them to be ‘hungry for life’ – we don’t want them to feel hopeless or to fear the future. In workshops this afternoon we will talk about the reality of poverty in Ontario, and talk about how together we might ‘unveil opportunities for hope’.

Diego, a student in the audience, responded to the panel’s presentation by saying ‘We all need to eat, food is a human right.’

The Ontario government does not have a serious strategy to end poverty in Ontario. The proposed welfare reforms in the recent Ontario budget are neither fundamental nor far-reaching as some would have us believe. The current rates for social assistance and the current minimum wage in Ontario ensure that people in Ontario with low incomes will continue to starve.

Premier Wynne’s proposed welfare reforms are inadequate. Premier Wynne must

‘Put Food in the Budget’ by raising social assistance rates and raising the minimum wage to ensure people have enough money to buy healthy food without relying on food banks.


The Toronto Star published two articles on the Put Food in the Budget event.

You can read them here.

Toronto students learn local connection with World Hunger Day –

Toronto high school students get lesson in the politics of hunger