Holiday strain: Parkdale Food Centre faces “a difficult month”

The exterior of the Parkdale Food Centre. A truck is parked outside and people are mingling by the door
The Parkdale Food Centre says in October of this year, they saw a 41 per cent increase in calls for service. Photo by Charlie Senack

By Bradley Turcotte

More Kitchissippi residents are turning to social services this year to put food on the table.

With inflation, an ever-rising cost of living and stagnant wages, the affordability gap has pushed demand at local food banks to record highs.

In response, the Westboro Food Bank (at 347 Richmond Rd.) has added a third day to its weekly operations. On any given day, up to 30 families or individuals visit the center to stock up. 

“I wish we would work ourselves out of work but it’s a never-ending task,” said Anne Borde, one of its volunteers. “Some people we used to see, we don’t see anymore. They are being replaced by others. It’s on ongoing flow.

“In the past two or three months, there have been so many more people, (including) large families. I have noticed a lot of people coming from Ukraine as well. It has been more difficult for them when they start.”

A Statistics Canada report in June said more than two in five Canadians are affected by rising food costs, with prices of jumping around 10 per cent over the last year. The report also found three in four Canadians say rising food prices mean skimping on transportation, housing and clothing. Food Banks Canada reports food bank use increased 35 per cent from March 2019 to March 2022.

The Ottawa Food Bank provides most of the Westboro bank’s canned and fresh goods and seeks government grants through Food Banks Canada, which helps cover the costs for any additional grocery items they require. 

Money donated by the public has helped keep the shelves well stocked, but volunteers said there is always a need for more.

Across Kitchissippi ward in Wellington West, The Parkdale Food Centre (located at 30 Rosemount Ave.) challenges poverty and hunger with its grocery program and community fridge.

A colourful shed outside of the Parkdale Food Centre. Inside is where the community fridge is.
The Parkdale Food Centre’s community fridge is used by many in the community. With demand continuing to rise, they are struggling to keep it stocked. Photo by Charlie Senack

Meredith Kerr, director of development and communications at the food providing service, said there is always increased demand for social services around the holiday season. She said January is when families struggle the most. 

“People are strained. With this emergency we are seeing in the community and beyond with food prices and inflation rising, our costs are exploding,” Kerr said. “In October we saw a 41 per cent rise in our numbers. Throw in the holiday season where people are normally stressed… we are gearing up for a difficult month.”

To make matters more complicated, the Parkdale Food Centre’s funding was slashed when provincial social service relief funding ended. Kerr encouraged community members who want to help this holiday season to donate financial contributions directly to Parkdale Food Centre.

“We are at an all time crisis in terms of funding. Financial donations help us advocate for change. Systems change in the world by providing dignified food access,” she said. “There has never been a more challenging time for people on the poverty line.”

Readers can find out how to help at the Westboro Food Bank’s and Parkdale Food Centre’s websites.

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