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Fall food drive sees strong donations at halfway mark as London Food Bank visits creep up

London Food Bank kicks off its 32nd annual Thanksgiving food drive
London Food Bank kicks off its 32nd annual Thanksgiving food drive on Sept. 2, 2020. Andrew Graham/980 CFPL

With just days left to go in its annual Thanksgiving food drive, officials with the London Food Bank are once again singing the praises of Londoners who have stepped up to the plate to help those less fortunate, just as they did in the spring.

The food bank kicked off its 32nd annual Thanksgiving food drive on Oct. 2 — a virtual affair thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, making it the second virtual food drive held this year by the food bank.

Read more: London Food Bank’s Thanksgiving food drive goes virtual this year

Already, Londoners have helped amass some 20,000 pounds worth of food for the campaign, about double what was raised at the halfway mark last year, said Jane Roy, the food bank’s co-executive director.

“When it comes to London’s generosity, I continue to always be impressed by how Londoners step up to help their next door neighbours and folks that really need it,” Roy said Wednesday during an interview with 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs.

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The Thanksgiving food drive, which wraps up Oct. 12, comes months after Londoners helped raise more than 188,000 pounds worth of food during the spring food drive — a haul double that seen the previous year.

Food bank officials credited the hefty bump to community generosity, as well as corporate contributions from Cargill, Innovata Foods, and Tillsonburg Custom Food, who donated a total of 40,000 pounds worth of chicken, meat, and other food products.

While Londoners are still able to donate physical food items at grocery stores and the food bank warehouse, as was the case in the spring, Roy says the safest way to help is with a cheque or online monetary donation that will then be used to purchase food. According to Food Banks Canada, a $2.60 donation equals about one pound of food.

Read more: London Food Bank’s virtual spring food drive collects 188,696 pounds worth of food, monetary donations

The campaign comes as the food bank has experienced an uptick in visits as the province grapples with a second wave of the virus, and as the region deals with high unemployment levels. In August, the London-St. Thomas jobless rate stood at 9.3 per cent.

We had dropped when a lot of those income supports were there, but what we’re finding is our numbers are starting to increase. We’re getting busier every day, and we’re seeing about a 10 percent increase every month,” she says.

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In the last couple of days alone, the food bank has recorded 130 to 140 families coming to them for help, something not typical for the first of the month, Roy said.

“We, of course, aren’t going aren’t sure what’s going to happen over the wintertime. But the fact that Londoners have again been so generous and continue to be generous will for sure put us in a good position to be able to help the folks as they come in and as those numbers rise.”

Because of the pandemic, only one person, maybe two, are allowed in the food bank at a time, Roy says, meaning others attending the food bank have to wait outside in a line.

That may be manageable with temperatures where they are now, but it’ll be a different story when frigid winter weather arrives.

“We’re making plans for that… but right now … if you’re coming to the food bank, be prepared to stay outside until it’s your time to get food,” Roy said.

Read more: New COVID-19 sickness benefit unlikely to go to people ill from virus, PBO predicts

At the launch of the food drive, the food bank also unveiled it had partnered with 519 Pursuit during the pandemic to delivery lunches to people living on the street. As of Oct. 1, at least 16,200 lunched had been handed out in the four months prior.

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Money and food collected will support not just the food bank but also a number of the food bank’s other partnership agencies.

Those looking to contribute can find out how through the organization’s website.

— With files from Sawyer Bogdan

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