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Amid spring food drive launch, London Food Bank unveils plans to go mobile

London Food Bank co-director Jane Roy (left), South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre and Northwest London Resource Centre executive director Nancy Needham (centre), and YMCA of Southwestern Ontario CEO Andrew Lockie stand in at the back of a loaded Food Bank truck. Andrew Graham / Global News

The London Food Bank marked the launch of its 34th annual spring food drive with the unveiling of an upcoming program that aims to get more food to more Londoners in different parts of the city.

The program is formed out of a partnership between five local community resource centres and the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario.

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The YMCA will offer its Centre Branch, the Bostwick Community Centre, the Stoney Creek Community Centre and the Bob Hayward YMCA to serve as community hubs for food box pick-ups.

The South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre, Northwest London Resource Centre, Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre and LUSO Community Services will all work with the Food Bank to deliver hampers to the areas they serve.

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This will give Londoners nine additional locations to seek services provided by the Food Bank.

“We’re out in the community collecting donations, but now we’re talking about being out in the community distributing food to people who need it,” said Food Bank co-director Jane Roy on London Live with Mike Stubbs.

The Food Bank already has a number of satellite depots in London, but these facilities are unable to distribute items such as fresh milk, fresh produce and frozen meat due to food safety challenges.

Both the resource centres and YMCA locations will tackle these issues by spreading out the help provided by the Food Bank, thereby eliminating time and transportation barriers for those seeking food.

The partnering organizations will also be able to bring their own unique services to those being served by the upcoming program.

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“(The resource centres) are actually able to address some of the root causes of poverty, they can refer people to places, they got a lot of their own programs,” Roy said.

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The YMCA addition will not only allow food box pick-ups in different corners of London, but also stretch the time that Londoners will be able to do so.

“Most of the food banks or food-hamper-type agencies are like Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Roy said. “The advent of the Y allows for Saturday or staying open until 6 p.m., so that increases the access as well.”

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The YMCA locations will work with an appointment-based system, where those seeking food call the location ahead of time with their request, allowing the Food Bank to provide tailored deliveries based on demand.

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After a request is made, the YMCA will then arrange a time to pick up the food box.

The resource centres will vary on how they operate, but will have food delivered to them by the Food Bank.

“The resource centre in south London for instance, they’re going to be doing their own hampers … basically it’s every afternoon and it’s drop-in,” Roy said.

The program will launch at the South London Resource Centre in early May and will roll out at participating YMCA locations during the week of June 7. The remaining four resource centres should be brought up to speed by the end of summer.

In the meantime, the Food Bank is asking Londoners for help on naming the new program and is accepting suggestions on its website.

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As for the spring food drive, the annual campaign will another be virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food donations can be still dropped off at participating grocery stores, along with the Food Bank’s location on Leathorne Street between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday and between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday.

In light of current health restrictions, Londoners are encouraged to consider providing monetary donations instead.

The Food Bank says $25 can provide one person with emergency food for a week while $100 provides four people with a week’s worth of emergency food.

Donations can be sent online at canadahelps.org.

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