Food banks in Hamilton, Ont. are sounding the alarm and seeking investment from the city to compensate for a significant decrease in food donations.
The Emergency Food Strategic Planning Committee, which represents a collective of 16 hunger-relief programs, have submitted a request for $1.25 million in annual funding to purchase bulk food to ensure they can continue to meet demand.
Hamilton Food Share’s Karen Randell says the agencies didn’t make the decision to seek city help “lightly” insisting they are getting “very close” to not being able to keep doors open for everyone.
“We were bringing in just over 300,000 pounds of food prior to the pandemic as a result of community food drives, and last year that number was only 83,000,” Randell explained to councillors during an Emergency and Community Services Committee on Thursday.
Jamie Vanderberg from the Welcome Inn Community Centre says over the past year city food banks have been seeing a combined 33,000 visitors each month, a year-over-year increase of some 40 per cent while donations plunged between 60 to 80 per cent.
“As an example, Welcome Inn’s food bank was visited 11,000 times prior to the pandemic; this past year we (had) 24, 353 visits to our foodbank,” he revealed.
He says the startling part is an increase in visits from seniors, which climbed 24 per cent in March to just under 2,000 visits during that month.
With a lack of donations, Food Share’s purchasing has grown by 624 per cent over the last four years moving from $193,326 in 2019 to $1.4 million in 2023.
Half of the $1.25 million ask from the city would be earmarked for food purchasing with the other part covering staffing and infrastructure expenses via grants.
Councillors have asked staff to report back in October with options for meeting the emergency funding request.