Filling the Food Banks

November 20, 2020 | Clarence Nywening

Filling the Food Banks

As we approach the Christmas season, the latest news from many food banks in Ontario is that donations are down and demand is expected to be up.

Even before the pandemic hit, more than 40 per cent of food banks in rural Ontario reported an increase in use between 2018 and 2019. The truly appalling thing is that nearly a third of the people using food banks in rural Ontario in 2019 were children.

During the time of COVID-19, there are so many people out of work and in need that it’s more important than ever to dig deep and find ways to give.

Donations were down as a result of businesses being shuttered by the pandemic. In Guelph, for example, the spring drive – during the first wave – was apparently a write-off and the Thanksgiving campaign came up short. While staff are hopeful that the community will come through, the need continues.

In Waterloo Region, the food banks had distributed 2.3 million pounds of food between the middle of March and November. They are expecting a 30 per cent increase in use for the upcoming holiday season.

Despite facing challenges in 2020, farmers did their part for the less fortunate.

Ontario pork producers stepped up with the Pork Industry Gratitude Project, started in Perth County. They raised $85,000 between April and July to provide 200,000 servings of fresh ground pork to feed families in need. An additional $15,000 was given to county associations to use in their own communities.

Feed Ontario’s COVID-19 Emergency Food Box program was supported by Dairy Farmers of Ontario with an additional $100,000 over and above their regular contributions, and the Grain Farmers of Ontario pitched in $100,000 as well. With their efforts, hundreds of thousands of Ontarians were able to get access to wholesome, high-quality local food.

The Ontario Egg Program has been running since 2015. In it, an annual donation of $250,000 means 144,000 dozen eggs get delivered to food banks across the province. Others can participate by donating $50, which provides 25 dozen eggs from one hen every year.

We farmers have had our share of setbacks, challenges and heartache with the onslaught of the pandemic. But with winter coming on and the snow and cold weather about to test all of us even further, we need to count our blessings and give to those who are in need.

Clarence Nywening is Interim General Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.