Kawartha Food Share staff says it has been a busy summer with a noticeable increase in clients.
“Usually in the summertime we see a little bit of a decrease in our clients, probably because a lot of people in this area work seasonal jobs, said Ashlee Aitken, general manager of Kawartha Food Share. “For this summer, for whatever reason, our numbers have stayed pretty consistent so we’re feeding about 9,000 people a month.”
That number comes as a shock to staff because they usually don’t serve that many clients until the fall and winter months.
“I think in Peterborough the big reasons are the lack of affordable housing and the lack of jobs in the city. The cost of food is on the rise, our hydro bills are on the rise, everything is going up, but yet people are making the same amount of money and just can’t afford food for their families,” said Aitken.
Peterborough Public Health says recent studies on food insecurity levels were among the highest in Peterborough on provincial and national levels.
“For Peterborough, our food insecurity rate based on this national data is one of the highest for Ontario public health units and right now it’s tracking at about 16.5 per cent of households food insecure,” said registered dietitian at Peterborough Public Health, Carolyn Doris.
Food insecurity means households are worrying about where their next meal is coming from or are compromising other aspects of their lives to buy food.
“We know from research that moms do without, they feed their children before themselves, they know, it’s so important to send that lunch to school so mothers go without,” Doris said. “We know that people who are food insecure tend to eat less healthy foods like vegetables and fruit.”
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The health unit says income plays a bigger role with food insecurity as opposed to affordable food.
“When it comes down to choosing a roof over your head or food on the table, food becomes that flexible budget item and people have to pay the rent,” said Doris.
As this week is Hunger Awareness week, Kawartha Food Share has launched its second annual One Bag Challenge.
“Donate a bag of food and take a picture of yourself donating it in one of our donation bins or come on down to the warehouse, you do it all through social media — tag us in it so we can see what you’re doing,” said Aitken.
Organizers hope to top last year’s total of 16,000 pounds of food.