You may think of the West Island as a part of Montreal where everyone is well off, but that’s far from the truth. A new short documentary called Hidden Hunger seeks to shine light on the hidden issues of poverty and food insecurity in the area.
“The West Island is an affluent area, big houses and stuff,” said Akshay Grover, the director of the film and a Concordia University communications student.
“You would be surprised when you go into some of these houses, there is no food on the table.”
Grover made the film along with fellow Concordia student Max Duguay and McGill University student Luca Brown. All three grew up in the West Island.
In the documentary, they interview West Islanders struggling to make ends meet and members of the community organizations that seek to help them.
“I had no real issues with money, no issues with food, then it got to the point where everything was a struggle,” said an interviewee identified as Mark in the film.
Grover, Brown and Duguay were hired by the West Island Community Resource Centre (CRC) to make the film. It’s part of a broader campaign to bring awareness to food insecurity in the area.
“There’s no archetype. It could be anybody,” said Cristina Colt, who works at the CRC and helped the film come to fruition. “Anybody could be going through a hard time.”
“Maybe they lost their job, maybe they have mental health issues, it could be any reason.”
Another of the film’s participants, a woman identified as Sherry, describes being abandoned by her husband while seven months pregnant with her fifth child.
“The thing that most stood out is the resiliency of these people that face these dire circumstances. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Grover.
Kim Reid, the founder of West Island food bank OnRock, said he sees the problem every day, but knows that most people don’t.
“When I started OnRock back in 2005, we were serving 30 families per week. Now we’re doing 200-250,” he told Global News.
Reid thinks anything that brings awareness to poverty in the West Island is a good thing.
“You don’t see it, unless you know someone personally or you’re involved or looking for it,” Reid said.
Hidden Hunger premieres on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. at John Abbott College. The filmmakers and a number of participants in the documentary will be on hand to answer questions.