Helping Hand Food Bank in Tillsonburg has continued to give out food to those in need during the pandemic lockdown.
To help stock its shelves, the food bank recently asked Oxford OPP Auxiliary to hold another Cram the Cruiser event. On Saturday, OPP auxiliary collected about 1,500 pounds of food and $350 cash from Metro patrons.
“This is food that we didn’t have before that really will help us restock our shelves,” said Dianne Clark, Helping Hand Food Bank co-ordinator.
Food Bank Canada generally rates food donations at $2.50 per pound (average cost for food banks to purchase one pounds of food), which would put the estimated value of Saturday’s donations around $4,100.
“We’re very grateful to have that,” said Clark. “That was wonderful.”
There has been a rise in demand for food services, she said, estimating it to be up about 30 per cent.
“Our numbers are up. There is a bigger need from people who are experiencing food insecurity.”
During the pandemic, men and women lost jobs, and the food back was there for assistance and support.
“Some of these people may have been working at the same job since they were 18 years old and are now in their 50s and early 60s, and have to think about retraining. And they have families they have to support. That’s why our numbers are up. People are finding they can’t seem to make the bills meet, especially if they are not working.”
More people coming in means more food going out the front door.
At the same time, due to the pandemic the food bank has tighter restrictions on what can and cannot be received in food donations.
“We have to do contract tracing with everything that comes into the food bank. That means we are being very cautious with everything coming in.”
It means the annual one-day Thanksgiving season fall food drive, which asked people to leave food on their doorsteps to be collected by volunteers in a crosstown blitz, might be shelved.
“We’re finding it’s better for us health-wise to do Cram the Cruiser events where we know exactly what we are getting from the grocery stores.”
It also reduces the poundage of food that needs to be thrown away – thousands of pounds of waste food annually – due to expired dates or opened packages.
“That has gone down dramatically.”
Over the years local farmers have been very generous donating food, including eggs, produce and meat. But times have been hard on farmers, and the food bank is purchasing more food that would have otherwise been donated in past years.
“They are feeling the pinch as well, and when they are absolutely fabulous and generous to give to us, sometimes it puts an even harder pinch on them.
“Food Bank Canada has been absolutely wonderful in outsourcing and getting money so they can purchase food in large bulk quantities, which they pass on to us. Currently we have whole chickens. Not big, huge ones… but we’ve been able to receive skids of these, which are fabulous to be able to give people a whole chicken. And different frozen foods.
“Walmart has been fabulous with providing us things – all the grocery stores have. Inovata (Foods), which is a company here in town, they’ve been absolutely fabulous with providing us with frozen meals.”
FUTURE CRAM THE CRUISERS
“At this point in time we are planning two more Cram the Cruiser events – spread out – with one in the fall and one in the winter months.”