With hours still left to go in its annual Spring Food Drive, the London Food Bank is making one final push for community donations, noting that thousands more has already been raised compared with last year’s campaign.
As of late Monday morning, the food bank says its 35th annual spring drive has collected roughly 60,000 pounds worth of food in monetary and physical donations, a figure roughly 8,000 pounds more than what last year’s drive had raised at the same point.
It remains to be seen what the campaign’s final tally will be. The drive officially ends Monday, and a confirmed total is expected on Wednesday after the last remaining pickups are made and counted.
“We thought that London would match what it did last year, but when you consider what the times are like this year — inflation, food prices, rental prices, housing prices,” said the food bank’s co-executive director, Glen Pearson.
“A lot of Londoners could have a lot of great reasons as to why they couldn’t donate as much this year … but they’ve exceeded what they did at this time last year. I think that really says something about London.”
As of Monday, Pearson said roughly $61,400 had been collected through the campaign by way of monetary donations from the community. According to Food Banks Canada, a $2.60 donation equals one pound of food, meaning the amount raised equals nearly 24,000 pounds.
Pearson said though financial donations are down slightly from 2021’s spring campaign, food donations have increased, a likely result of the campaign not being virtual as the previous two drives were.
Although donations are up compared with last year, demand for the food bank’s services, and the services offered by the agencies the food bank helps, have also increased, Pearson said.
“Right now it’s 40 agencies or so that we are helping on an ongoing basis, and then there’s a number of other situations that we’re helping whenever the need comes up,” he said. Roughly 70 per cent of the poundage raised will go toward these agencies.
“When you add it all together, we help 9,000 people a month directly at the food bank, but we help (an additional) 12,000 people a month through all these other agencies that we provide food for.”
A focus of this year’s campaign is helping incoming refugees who have fled Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
“We don’t know quite when they’re coming, we’re told it’s going to be soon,” Pearson said.
“But there’s groups like the Cross-Cultural Learning Centre, there’s churches, faith groups … they’re going to be welcoming these Ukrainian refugees into their midst and people are going to need help around food.”
Monetary donations specifically for the Ukrainian refugee relief effort can be made through the food bank’s website.
The drive comes as Londoners, and people across the country, deal with rising food, housing and rental prices.
Although the Canadian economy has climbed above pre-pandemic levels, and the local unemployment rate stood at a pandemic low of 5.3 per cent last month, demand for the food bank is as high as it’s ever been, Pearson said.
Roughly a quarter of visits to the food bank involve people new to the agency, the food bank stated in a Facebook post earlier this month, noting the figure has “traditionally been less than half this” for more than three decades.
“Last year, people were still getting things like CERB and things like that…. A lot of that is gone now, so people are on their own and they’re trying to make a go of it, and it’s been really, really difficult,” Pearson said.
“The big change has been rent. That’s what’s been driving everything,” he said.
Average rent for a private two-bedroom apartment in London stood at $1,275 as of October 2021, an increase of roughly three per cent from 2020, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. For two-bedroom condos, the average was $1,537.
“Across the board, at the community level, families are in real need. Some of them are working for minimum wage. Others are people who are on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program). Other people have seen their rents increase 40 per cent since this time last year,” Pearson said.
“Like, what are they going to do? And that’s why the food bank is there, but it has meant that the demand on us is especially high. It’s never been this high.”
More information on how to donate can be found on the London Food Bank’s website.