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More than 117,000 pounds donated to 2022 fall food drive: London Food Bank

Glen Pearson, co-executive director of the London Food Bank, at the agency's warehouse on Sept. 29, 2022. Andrew Graham / Global News

Note: Shortly after this article was published, the London Food Bank issued an updated final tally for the food drive. The article has been updated to reflect this new figure.

Despite growing financial pressures on their pocketbooks, the London Food Bank says local residents pulled through big time for the 2022 fall food drive, donating roughly 117,496 pounds worth of food.

The fall food drive began on Sept. 30 and officially wrapped up on Thanksgiving Monday.

More than 76,600 pounds, 66 per cent, of the total came in the form of physical food donations, while more than 39,200 pounds came through monetary donations, with one $3.21 donation equalling one pound of food, the food bank says.

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“We had expected a dip, that’s for sure. Part of it was because we told folks, ‘Don’t worry about donating this year if you don’t have it,'” said Glen Pearson, co-executive director of the food bank.

“It didn’t work out that way at all from the very beginning. It started to get greater and greater than last year, and it just kept rolling right along,” he continued.

“It definitely wasn’t expected. As I said earlier today, we were wrong and we loved it. It was wonderful that the public and the business community responded in the way that they did.”

The final tally well exceeds that seen during the 2021 fall drive, when a total of 79,021 pounds worth of food was collected.

In contrast to this year, the majority of poundage collected during the 2021 drive, 59 per cent, came in the form of monetary donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with one $2.60 donation equalling one pound.

“We thought that food donations would go up this year and that is exactly what happened,” Pearson said.

“The good side of that is, that means that there’s engagement there. We had volunteers at grocery stores, for instance, handing out bags. There were people that were coming to the food bank to sort out all the food supplies that had come in. … Londoners were all encountering one another at different levels, all during this food drive, which had not really been happening during COVID.”

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The successful food drive comes amid the busiest period in the food bank’s history, with roughly 4,000 families walking through the doors of the food bank every month, Pearson says. The agency’s busiest three months have all occurred within the last four months.

At least 23,157 different individuals, or 9,271 households, have used the food bank’s services at least once this year, a 41 per cent jump over the same period in 2021. Some 28 per cent of all households helped this year are new to the food bank, up from 18 per cent in 2021.

The increased demand comes as grocery prices and other everyday costs continue to rise due to inflation.

In August, the country’s annual inflation rate slowed to 7.0 per cent, driven by a dip in gasoline prices, however food inflation hit 10.8 per cent compared with a year before — the fastest increase in grocery prices since 1981, according to Statistics Canada.

In addition to serving its own clientele, the food bank also supports around 30 other local agencies on an ongoing basis. Of the poundage collected for this year’s drive, about 60 per cent will go to these other local agencies, Pearson said.

“We’ll probably do more of that this year because I think they’re really struggling with all that’s going on, and they might not quite have the reach that the London Food Bank does. … So we feel it’s our responsibility to try to help them,” Pearson said.

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Heading into the new year, Pearson says he anticipates that the food bank will continue to see record levels of demand from the community, adding that there likely won’t be any relief in the near future for the agency or for society at large.

Several food banks across Canada, he says, have either closed or suspended operations entirely due to the strain.

“We’ve been in touch with some of the federal cabinet ministers as well as some of the provincial cabinet ministers. We’ve also been in touch with the head of the Bank of Canada and others as a food bank. … They’ve all told us to expect rougher times coming,” he said.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be easy, and food banks have to be there. Food banks just can’t depend on food drives to help them out as they go through. We’ve got to depend on other things to make sure that the food is there so we can help other agencies. We expect our greater numbers are yet to come.”

More information on how to donate to the food bank can be found on London Food Bank’s website.

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