Growing demand and dropping donations for food banks in Durham Region amid rising food prices are straining their ability to help clients, two organizations told Global News.
“We’ve definitely seen the numbers rise, especially in these last few weeks as we’re getting ready for Christmas,” said James Dark, Community and Family Services Coordinator for The Salvation Army Hope Church and Community Services in Ajax, Ont.
The group handed out more than 25,000 lbs. of food in November, Dark said, more than double compared to August. This Christmas season has already seen more food go out the door than during the entire season last year.
The back room of the facility is normally overflowing with boxes heaping with food at this time of year, Dark explained, pointing to the scattering of half-empty containers that now line the tables and shelves.
He said rising food prices have meant a drop in donations. With demand only growing, inventory remains chronically low.
In Bowmanville, Ont., The St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank has also seen a spike in demand, according to its manager, Christine Boyd.
“I would say since July our numbers have slowly crept up … compared to last year and the year before,” she said, with donations dropping off as well.
Boyd said rising prices are increasingly driving many people to seek help.
“We don’t go a month where we don’t see three or four new people in Bowmanville that we’ve never seen before,” she said. “And it’s a lot of families.”
Growing food bank use only shows a fraction of a wider problem, according to Mustafa Koc, a sociology professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.
“Many people will not immediately go to the food bank first,” he said. “So their first reaction will be eating cheaper foods.”
Mitigating the problem and preventing long-term health impacts may require intervention by governments and industry, Koc explained.
“Maybe we should think about making certain basic food items more accessible and more affordable,” he said.
James Dark of The Salvation Army food bank said his organization is encouraging people to give what they can while preparing for more lean months ahead.