With the clock ticking, the organizers of London’s annual Business Cares Food Drive are making a last ditch plea for the public to donate — but only if they are able to.
The annual food drive, which ends on Tuesday and is marking its 21st year, sees local businesses come together to collect food and money in support of the London Food Bank and the agencies it helps.
Recognizing the economic impact that COVID-19 pandemic has had on the city, this year’s campaign launched on Dec. 1 with no set goal for donations.
Instead, people and businesses were encouraged to pitch in what they could, if they could.
So far, organizers say locals have been stepping up to the plate.
For example, the campaign’s annual Grocery Store Weekend, held Dec. 5 and 6, brought in roughly 140,000 pounds of food in physical and monetary donations — 22 per cent more than the year before.
However, those gains are offset by the fact that fewer businesses are taking part in the drive compared to years past.
“This time last year, we’d be picking up from 350 businesses the next three days of food. This year we’re picking up from 35 to 40. And we are having some businesses bring food in, but not a lot,” said Wayne Dunn, campaign chair.
“What we’re relying on now are our cash and cheques to finish up the final days of the campaign.”
Last year’s Business Cares Food Drive ended with a record haul of 476,000 pounds of food.
The drive comes as local support groups and health officials brace for what’s expected to be a tough winter fraught with significant demands for service and surging COVID-19 case levels.
This year’s campaign has already been bolstered by major contributions from the community, including a recent $20,000 donation from LiUNA 1059, the construction union local, and a $48,321 donation from the London Chamber of Commerce in October.
Together, those donations alone equal roughly 26,277 pounds worth of food. (According to Food Banks Canada, a $2.60 donation equals one pound of food.)
Dunn stresses, however, that the campaign doesn’t want anyone to feel pressured to donate.
“I know everyone’s having a tough time,” he said.
“I think the slogan of our campaign this year — although it is ‘taking care of business (means) taking care of people’ — it’s ‘give if you can, but only if you can.'”
Even with the pandemic, Londoners haven’t failed to flex their charitable muscles this year.
The London Food Bank’s virtual fall food drive collected roughly 70,000 pounds worth of food in physical and monetary donations, and in April, the spring food drive collected a record 188,000 pounds of donations — more than double the year before.
The 21st Business Cares Food Drive ends Dec. 22.
Those looking to donate can drop off food, cash, and cheque donations at JMP Warehouse and Businesses Cares Headquarters, or at the London and District Construction Association on Aberdeen Drive.
Cheques should be made out to “London and Area Food Bank/Business Cares,” and drop-offs must be arranged ahead of time. More information can be found at businesscares.ca or by calling 519-661-9803.
Pick-ups can also be arranged, and donations can be made online through the Business Cares website.
— With files from Andrew Graham