Montreal-area food banks struggle to cope with COVID-19 restrictions

Click to play video: '​How Montreal foodbanks grapple with coronavirus'
​How Montreal foodbanks grapple with coronavirus
WATCH: As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads in Montreal, Global's Phil Carpenter looks at what some of the city's foodbanks have planned to help the homeless and vulnerable during the current public health crisis – Mar 15, 2020

Montreal-area food banks are being affected by the mitigation measures in place to combat COVID-19.

“We’ve gotta look at, you know, the needs of the individual and also the need of the greater community, and how do we balance those, and it’s really tough,” said Kim Reid, president and founder of On Rock Community Services in Pierrefonds.

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Measures to help curb the spread of the virus include asking the population to not gather in large groups in public. Now, food banks are figuring out how to continue serving clients without helping to spread the virus.

As a solution, some have decided to suspend some services.

“We’ve closed our diner for a month because that’s people congregating here,” Reid explained.

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He said their community diner service usually serves up to 30 people per week.

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At the Welcome Hall Mission, food service has been cut back too. A free market where people could usually pick up their food is now closed temporarily, according to Sam Watts, CEO and executive director.

“[So as to] not have people elbow-to-elbow in the marketplace right now, over the next couple of days anyway,” he said.

He pointed out that their emergency services for the homeless will continue, however, and they’ll decide in a few days how to get food to people who need it.

At On Rock, Reid said they plan to continue handing out food baskets to their clients as a trial next week, and that home delivery services will continue for now.

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“The clients who pick up here, they won’t be allowed to enter the building,” he said. “We’ll hand them a box at the door.”

Sun Youth plans to do the same thing with people making appointments online or by fax.

But as job losses mount with companies cutting staff, Sun Youth emergency services director Eric Kingsley believes the number of clients could increase. That and a shortage of staff could bring another challenge to their ability to serve the public.

“Some of our staff are affected with the closing of the schools and the daycares,” he explained.

He and workers at other food banks fear what could happen if the crisis isn’t solved soon.

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