COVID-19 expected to create ‘record year’ for food banks in Kingston region

It may come as a surprise, but demand for Kingston’s foodbank actually dropped during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now because of the pandemic, we are trying to keep a three-month supply of our non-perishable foods,” says Dan Irwin, executive director of Kingston’s Partners In Mission Foodbank.

Irwin says despite a Toronto report by the Daily Bread and North York Harvest foodbanks that outlined a dramatic increase in foodbank demand during the early stages of the pandemic in Toronto, the same did not happen in Kingston.

Who’s Hungry 2020 report reveals that prior to COVID-19, food bank use had already increased by 5% compared to the previous year with close to one million visits in the city of Toronto. Daily Bread Foodbank

“When CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit ) came out, it was a real great saviour for us,” says Irwin, “and we actually dropped down to below average for a lot of the summer.

Story continues below advertisement

“And now we have picked back up to our average.”

About 50 to 60 food hampers are picked-up every day at Partners In Mission, and now that CERB has ended, Irwin is expecting greater numbers in 2021.

“Nine to 18-months after the economic event is where we start seeing our higher numbers,” says Irwin, “so that’s 2021 for us.

“So we are anticipating this will be a bigger year for us. It could be a record year.”

Click to play video: 'Kingston organizations come together to donate $500 thousand dollars worth of groceries'
Kingston organizations come together to donate $500 thousand dollars worth of groceries

In Sydenham at the South Frontenac Community Services Foodbank, the demand at the beginning of the pandemic was vastly different from that of the City of Kingston.

Story continues below advertisement

“When everything shutdown around March 13, we noticed an immediate spike in our foodbank,” says David Townsend, executive director at the Sydenham foodbank. “We doubled from the 45 to 50-hampers (per month) to over a 100 in the month of April.”

The demand in South Frontenac is also expected to rise next year as well.

“Government supports like CERB are not going to continue,” says Townsend, “and people will be back to making a choice — ‘do I put a roof over my head or do I buy food.'”

Queen’s University expert Elaine Power with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, estimates that even before the pandemic, food banks across Canada were only serving about 25 per cent of the 4-million plus Canadians who were food insecure, saying they are just a Band-Aid solution.

“In other words, all they’ve been able to do is allow some people to be less hungry – not to change the conditions underlying the problem,” Power said in a statement.

Power says governments need to make poverty reduction a centerpiece of economic recovery.


Sponsored content