Food insecurity a growing problem in Montreal’s West Island

Click to play video: 'Food insecurity a growing problem in Montreal’s West Island'
Food insecurity a growing problem in Montreal’s West Island
WATCH: West Island community organizations are trying to draw attention to what they say is a growing problem in that part of Montreal: the issue of food insecurity. Access to affordable food has become so acute that it's increasingly affecting the operations of some food banks. Global’s Phil Carpenter explains – Apr 15, 2024

Montreal’s West Island is considered one of the more affluent areas of the city but a little-known secret is that pockets of poverty also exist.

That’s why community organizations there are trying to draw attention to a growing problem — the issue of food insecurity.

Wayne Markell, a volunteer at On Rock Community Services in Pierrefonds, is surprised by the number of people who are depending on the food bank for help.

“It’s all kinds of different people,” he observes. “You have families, some with four children, you’ve got others that are single, you have people (with disabilities) who can’t get out.”

The numbers also worry Kayla Reid, who helps to coordinate operations at On Rock.

“Well, that number is increasing every week,” she told Global News. “We have, I believe, four to five registrations every week happening right now, and we are already above 300 families.”

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She adds that this time of year, after the holiday rush, means there’s less for everyone, so though their food bank has enough for families for the next month or two, they are already cutting back.

“Because our families are already telling us that they can tell that their food boxes are lighter and there’s less in them,” she points out. “We have to make it stretch.”

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So they are appealing to the public for food donations.

Click to play video: 'Montreal food banks see sharp jump in demand'
Montreal food banks see sharp jump in demand

Seven kilometres away in Pointe-Claire, officials at the West Island Mission say more people are also coming there for food.

According to executive director Suzanne Scarrow, before the COVID-19 pandemic they were serving 200 families, and now, “we’re up over 400 families that we’re serving on our database,” she notes. “It amounts to about 1,000 individuals.”

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The numbers, she says, are similar at some other food banks in the area.

“People always feel like the West Island is an affluent area. Yes,” she admits. “There are pockets of both. Poverty is visible now on the West Island.”

Another disturbing trend she’s seeing is the rise in the number of seniors in that part of the city who need help.

“At least 50 per cent of the clients that we’re onboarding, are seniors,” she says.

Click to play video: 'Slammed: Montreal’s Food Bank Crisis and how seniors are contributing to growing demand'
Slammed: Montreal’s Food Bank Crisis and how seniors are contributing to growing demand

The increase in the number of clients is why the mission is moving at the beginning of June to 72D Brunswick Boulevard in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, a space twice the current size.

Reid blames the cost of living for the current situation and says even donors are struggling.

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“Not everybody can donate the way that they were before,” she notes.

Both she and Scarrow insist that governments need to do more to address the root causes of poverty, and quickly.

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