Food blitz this Saturday

Joan Clark, coordinator of the Helping Hand Food Bank in Tillsonburg, hopes to see the shelves stocked with food on Saturday, Oct. 5th during the annual Fall Food Drive. If you can donate to the food drive, please leave the food on your doorstep for a 10 a.m. pickup (the food drives starts at 10 and should be finished by 11 a.m.) Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News jpg, TN

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The Helping Hand Food Bank’s annual Food Blitz happens Saturday morning in Tillsonburg starting at 10 a.m.

“I haven’t got them all yet, I need volunteers. We still need two drivers,” said Helping Hand coordinator Joan Clarkson on Monday. “And 10 kids, over 12, to pick up food.”

If you can help Saturday, Oct. 5, contact the food bank at 519-688-3434. Leave a message with your name and number they can reach you.

Because there has been growth in the town, they have added a couple new routes. Drivers will be assigned to one of 18 routes Saturday.

“When they all go out at 10 that morning, at 10 a.m. sharp, it (collecting the food from doorsteps) will all be probably done by 10:30… 11 at the latest. It’s really well organized. After 11, a lot of the kids who do the walking (over the age of 12) and some drivers help sort food in the back room. They’re out of here probably by 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock at the latest. I stay and take calls if someone is missed.”

If you see anyone picking up food before 10 a.m., Clarkson noted they are not food bank volunteers.

“I recommend people don’t put food out (on the doorstep in bags) until about 9:45, if they can. I put mine on a little table in front of my house.

“Last year we did really good, we have been really well treated by this community. Last year, between October and Christmas, we got 46,000 pounds of food in food drives and I’m hoping we can get close to that again this year. We used all of that food.

“This year with the cost of food going up so much – a can of 69-cent beans is something like $2 – I keep thinking, ‘oh, what are we going to do?’ We’re doing alright right now, but I’m really worried about the winter.”

Clarkson does have an advantage over an average consumer when it comes to bargain shoppping. She gets calls from grocery stores when certain necessary foods go on sale and she stocks up.

Last year’s backpack program had more than 15,000 pounds of food going home with children on weekends.

“That’s a lot of food. We did 70 backpacks, weekly, through the school year. And this year I think it’s going to go up to 100 (backpacks). The program is known more, and the need has become more, so I’m sure it’s going to go up to 100 a week. And when you figure that’s between $15-17 of food per backpack, every week for 10 months… you really have to think it through.”

The food bank relies on the generosity of the community, as well as corporate support, farmer support, school support, service clubs, individuals, and grants.

One major supporter was 100 Women Who Care, who donated more than $9,000 for the backpack program.

“I have enough that I’m well established for backpack food until Christmas – then I’m hoping to get another United Way grant.”

Wayne Vansevenant from DeGroote-Hill Chevrolet Buick GMC is “a tremendous supporter” of the backpack program, said Clarkson, and does it through the food drive.

As they transition into the fall season, the food bank still had food on its shelves. But the food collected this weekend will go a long way toward keeping those shelves stocked throughout the winter.

“People are struggling, the rent certainly isn’t cheap in this town and the cost of food has gone up… and we’re here and we’re available. We are generous… because that’s what we do.”

What Clarkson has noticed this year is more usage from families.

“They have a need.”