Plans to expand food access for those in need in London, Ont., took a big step on Monday as the London Food Bank launched the first centre of its new Neighbourhood Food Distribution system.
The first of nine upcoming extensions of the London Food Bank was hosted by the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre (SLNRC).
From its location inside the South London Community Centre, the opening day saw staff dole out food hampers to 47 people, according to SLNRC executive director Nancy Needham.
“Now that we are the neighbourhood food bank, the individuals who are getting support today would receive more than they typically would’ve receive from in the past,” Needham said.
“In the past, we had an emergency food cupboard which gave you enough for a hearty meal… but now that we’re tied to London Food Bank, you’re getting enough food for you and your family for multiple days.”
Needham added that another advantage of the partnership is the ability to link visitors of the food program to the other services SLNRC provides.
“We’re also providing you with supports and connections to our youth programs, our settlement services, our early years program, so lots of connections for the whole family to help them move out of poverty,” Needham said.
Mary Ann McDowell, operations coordinator for the London Food Bank, says the first day at SLNRC was hiccup-free, which gives her confidence for when the rest of the planned food bank extensions open.
Those upcoming sites include the Northwest London Resource Centre, the Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre, Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre and LUSO Community Services.
The YMCA of Southwestern Ontario is also offering the Centre Branch, the Bostwick Community Centre, the Stoney Creek Community Centre and the Bob Hayward YMCA
“This kind of program for us is great because we know that transportation is a real barrier for people,” McDowell said.
“We’ve had to do some creative thinking about how things are going to work… I’m sure there will be more creative thinking that has to happen, but we’ll certainly face it as we go.”
In the meantime, the SLNRC will provide access to food hampers from Monday to Friday, between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
After serving dozens of people during its launch, Needham expects SLNRC will see its visits grow over the coming days.
“Once people know that there’s a service and support in the community, they tell others.”