As the 36th annual London Food Bank drive kicks off Friday, food bank volunteers are calling on elected officials to make meaningful changes to address food insecurity.
With this year’s spring drive running from Friday until Easter Monday (April 10), officials say now is the time for policy change. Over 5,100 households are expected to use the food bank in March, the busiest month on record, according to food bank volunteers.
Glen Pearson, a co-executive director of the food bank, says while volunteers are incredibly grateful for the community’s assistance year-over-year in donating, residents should not be expected to continually support those in need when help is needed at a higher level.
“Politicians and policymakers have been quite content to let food banks go on and keep doing it,” said Pearson Thursday ahead of the food drive launch.
“As policymakers, it’s your job. You’ve been elected to solve these bigger problems…like hunger and good security.”
According to the London Food Bank, they have had an average of 4,941 families every month to start this year, up 41 per cent compared to last year. In 2022, a total of 46,102 hampers were delivered to 126,520 individuals.
The average family that utilized the food bank last year visited every four months, and 36 per cent of all users in 2022 were using the food bank for the first time.
Jane Roy, the other co-executive director of the London Food Bank, tells Global News that while the third week of a month used to be the busiest time for the food bank, they are now busy almost every day.
“We very rarely have a day where there’s less than 200 families coming for help,” said Roy. “It’s encouraging to see the food we get to help them, but it’s discouraging that the numbers just go up. They don’t go down, and that’s difficult.”
One group that has already got the food drive off to a great start before it even kicks off is the “Goodness Angels,” a group of 11 to 13-year-old girls whose families have immigrated to Canada from Turkey and Syria.
One of the girls, 12-year-old Leyla Cetintas, says she was motivated to help and give back after what the food bank did for her family when they first came to Canada.
“Since many of when we came here got help from this food bank, we’re giving back to show thanks and help our community,” said Cetintas.
The food bank says 60 per cent of donations will go to local agencies, such as the Salvation Army, Youth Action Centre and Mission Services. The remaining 40 per cent will be reserved for direct food bank clients.
Some of the food sought for this drive includes peanut butter, rice, canned foods, pasta and other dry goods, powdered milk and baby food and formula. Non-food items in need include diapers, toothpaste, menstrual products and toilet paper.
No bags will be distributed in the London Free Press this year, so the food bank is asking for food donations to be made through a local major grocery store with bags from the Knights of Columbus at some grocery stores or with your own bag.
Monetary donations can be made to londonfoodbank.ca.