The grocery bags are a little lighter these days at the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC). Even though more people than ever before are turning to the local food bank, the non-profit centre is facing a shortfall in funding and is unable to provide everything clients need.
“We are currently in a shortfall situation which is making programming and basic purchases a struggle,” says PFC board member Hilary McVey. She explains that financial donations are down, especially from individuals. At the Annual General Meeting on September 24, the board was forced to cap the grocery budget at a third of what it has been.
The PFC receives 50 per cent of its distribution from the central Ottawa Food Bank. They rely on direct donations, both of money and food, to complete the distribution for over 700 clients each month.
Executive Director Karen Secord used to have $4,000 each month to spend on dairy, eggs, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as on supplementary items like toothbrushes. Already a thrifty shopper who combs the city for sales and bulk purchase discounts, Secord will now have only $2,500 to spend.
The impact of these cutbacks has been felt already. Last week she did not have the funds to purchase the crate of eggs that many clients rely on as an easy-to-cook source of protein.
That day, Thyme and Again stepped in and donated a large crate, but the shortfalls will continue until the volunteer-run organization can raise funds to restore the grocery budget.
Secord notes that PFC’s clientele is increasingly made up of the ‘working poor’, those who have employment but are still unable to cover all their expenses, as well as more seniors and children.
Hintonburg resident and client Denny Barch appreciates that the food centre is welcoming and accessible to everyone. Things like an open door, fresh coffee, and slices of cake help to remove the stigma often associated with using emergency food services. “That stigma keeps people from getting the help they need.”
“Everybody deserves to have good quality food,” Secord says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re poor.”
The volunteer-run centre serves the Hintonburg, Mechanicsville, Civic Hospital and Wellington West neighbourhoods, an area which includes 14 rooming houses, a family shelter, a transition house and a home for those with mental illnesses.
Asked for the top five items on her wish list, Secord said, “toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, milk, bread, and eggs.”
Online donations can be made at the PFC website, http://www.parkdalefoodcentre.org, or at the Centre on 89 Stonehurst Avenue. Secord also welcomes extra garden produce and baking supplies for their weekly baking evenings.
“There are lots of ways people can help,” she says. “When you give good food, you’re helping a person to better their life.”
For up to date news and events you can also follow PFC on Twitter @ParkdaleFood.