Demands on Island food bank increase dramatically

Wage earners now clients as grocery prices skyrocket

MANITOULIN—Pandemic ripples continue to plague communities across the globe, with high inflation primarily caused by disrupted global supply lines and ongoing labour shortages putting immense strains upon family budgets. As a result, food banks across the nation are reporting huge increases in demand and Manitoulin Island is far from immune.

“We are still seeing higher numbers than in previous years,” said Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) food security program supervisor Nikki Thompson. The impact will be felt by this year’s Christmas hamper program, with MFR anticipating a massive increase in requests. “Last year we were around 350, but this year we are anticipating 400 to 450.”

“Obviously, with the cost of living increasing more people who are employed part-time, and even full-time, are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet,” said Ms. Thompson. “Minimum wage is just not cutting it anymore, so numbers are going up.”

Once a stopgap to help get over a temporary budgetary hump, the food bank in Mindemoya is now seeing people coming in on a regular basis, she noted. The need for support has never been higher.

From her conversations with other emergency food providers, both locally and across the province, the situation is dire in just about every locale. The need for community support has never been greater.

A letter went out on November 4 from Dawn Noble McCann, vice principal at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) outlining the concerns being felt due to hunger and food insecurity. “We have provided students with nutritious and accessible food resources at our school with the Living Well Locker,” wrote Ms. Noble McCann. “The recovery from the pandemic has many challenges to our school community and we have an increase of students accessing the Living Well Locker,” she said. “This has been a difficult time for many families across the Island and our school community is no exception.”

Ms. Noble McCann noted that research has shown children and youth who experience food insecurity tend to have difficulties in terms of cognitive, emotional and physical development. We see the impact that food insecurity has on our students and our goal is to ensure that all students here at MSS all have access to healthy food options, including non-perishable and perishable food items.”

MSS is therefore reaching out to the community to seek ongoing donations and support as they head into the winter season. Donations of non-perishable food items, toiletries, clothing, school supplies and hygiene products will be greatly appreciated notes Ms. Noble McCann. Monetary donations will also assist greatly in allowing MSS to stock fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and meat products “to ensure that our students have access to food for a well-balanced meal.”

But food banks across the province (and Manitoulin) are also facing a double whammy. With most people’s budgets taking a pounding due to inflation in just about every aspect of life, donations of every kind have slowed. Some of those whose generosity has buoyed the coffers and filled food bank shelves are now finding themselves having to seek help.

There are many ways in which folks can step up to help, from volunteering with MFR’s hamper program to throwing in an item or two while out shopping at your local grocery store. But key to making a solid success of the season is cash. Money may be the root of all evil, but it can offer a way to help those who are less fortunate make their way through a rough patch.

Donations can be e-transferred to MFR by sending them to finance@mfresources.net, online by dropping by the website CanadaHelps.org, or by sending in a cheque to Manitoulin Family Resources, PO Box 181, Mindemoya, ON, P0P 1S0.

Those interested in finding out more about how they can help in this season of giving (or any season for that matter) can contact Ms. Thompson at 705-368-3400 x242. Working together we can make a difference.

Ms. Noble McCann can be reached by calling the school at 705-368-7000 or by email at mcaand@rainbowschools.ca.