By Charlie Senack
With household costs and food prices increasing, the Westboro Food Bank has seen their need double over the last year.
Peter Newlands, Westboro Food Bank coordinator, says it’s only expected to increase with more people finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“Just roughly speaking, on Monday we might have 25-30 families, and on Thursday, somewhere between 40 and 50 families,” he said.
A Statistics Canada report released in June 2022 said more than two in five Canadians are being affected by rising food costs, with the price of food jumping 9.7 per cent over the last 12 months. The report also found that three in four Canadians say rising food prices are impacting their ability to afford daily expenses like transportation, housing and clothing.
Shoppers’ wallets are being hit hard with meat costs, which have climbed 10.1 per cent since this time last year. Fresh fruits have gone up 10 per cent, and fresh vegetables 8.2 per cent, according to the report.
Newlands says their demand for service calls is only expected to increase from here.
“As far as we can tell, a lot of people are still temporarily out of work or out of work completely because they are retired and find it difficult to make ends meet,” said Newlands. “If you are on a pension, like ODSP or a Canada Pension Plan, you are going to find it tough just to pay the rent. Food on top of that is a real struggle.”
About half of the Westboro Food Bank’s clients are seniors, Newlands estimates, while the other half includes young individuals and families.
While Westboro is often seen as an affluent neighbourhood, the local food bank says many of the people they serve have lived in the community for a long time, well before its economic boom.
“It was not long ago that Westboro was a centre of used cars and businesses that were going out of business,” said Newlands. “People have been here a long time; they are not all new here and well-to-do.”
As one of the Ottawa Food Bank’s agencies, the Westboro Food Bank receives many of its canned and fresh goods from the warehouse. They also distribute some meat and dairy items.
Additionally, the local organization applies for government grants through Food Banks Canada, which helps cover the costs for any additional grocery items they require. Financial donations from the public are also appreciated to keep the shelves well stocked.
While food banks play a crucial role in helping those who need support, Newlands wants to see more government support to boost individuals’ incomes so they can have more independence.
“It is not ideal; you are asking people to come and basically take what they can get. That is hard on people’s pride and it’s not sustainable in the long run,” he said. “There needs to be more support for the annual income programs rather than just making people poor by government assistance. Make it something people could live on. We could then get rid of food banks.”
Anyone who wants to contribute to the Westboro Food Bank can donate online at westbororegionfoodbank.com
Cheques can also be dropped off at their facility, located in All Saints Westboro Church 347 Richmond Rd., on Mondays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Thursdays between 3-7 p.m.