MANITOULIN – The Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) Help Centre Food Bank plays an important role in supporting some measure of food security for people on Manitoulin Island, and like recent studies have shown across Ontario, food bank and food support program usage is a long way from peaking.
Last year MFR sent out some 860 food hampers to Island families in need. Local food drives have begun, with the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Services and Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service holding Stuff a Cruiser events and Island EMS workers also stepping up to assist as they have for a number of years. “The police services have been incredibly helpful in letting us use their trailers to transport the food items from the various drop-off locations to the Mindemoya Missionary Church where the baskets are packed,” said MFR executive director Marnie Hall.
“The food bank plays an incredibly important role,” said Ms. Hall, who pointed out that studies such as the ‘Who’s Hungry: Profile of Hunger in the Toronto Region’ have indicated that more adults than ever are now going several days a month without food. The cost of food in the province has been spiralling upwards steadily, exacerbating the challenges.
Christmas is a difficult time for many families, particularly for those with children, as the stress of providing nutritious food over the holiday season collides with the season of gift giving and the onset of the winter’s cold. The Manitoulin food hamper program seeks to help families in need make it through not only the Christmas season, but the lean weeks and months that follow. Once the food hampers go out, the food bank is closed for a while.
Ms. Hall provided additional statistics from ‘Who’s Hungry: Profile of Hunger in the Toronto Region.’
“The study showed that 32 percent of respondents did not eat for an entire day and 49 percent of those went hungry almost every month. Some 14 percent of respondents were hungry in past three months, with 14 percent doing so at least a couple of days per week. Seven percent of respondents’ children went hungry at least a couple of days per week in the last three months, 10 percent at least one day a month and 57 percent never,” she reported, qualifying the latter by noting “because adults will ensure children receive food and go without themselves.”
In order to make nutritional ends meet, families adopt financial coping mechanisms, notes Ms. Hall, pointing out the study indicates 37 percent of respondents borrow from friends or family, 31 percent use a credit card and 13 percent sell off personal property in order to put food on the table. There has been a four percent increase in visits to food banks since 2018 in Toronto, a trend Ms. Hall notes is also reflected here on Manitoulin.
While most grocery stores and many other Island businesses host donation drop off boxes for people to contribute food, cash donations to the effort provide considerable flexibility for MFR.
“It is everything,” said Ms. Hall of the importance of cash donations. “We look at the numbers we will need and place our orders for many parts of the baskets,” said Ms. Hall. The bulk of what goes into the baskets is purchased, with donated non-perishable food items filling in nooks and crannies. “We ensure that everyone has the basics,” she said. “The food items help top up the baskets.”
Each year, many community volunteers come out to assist with assembling the Christmas food hamper baskets at the Mindemoya Missionary Church. This year the packing party will take place on December 16. Those wishing to lend a helping hand in the effort are encouraged to contact Marilyn Viljanmaa at 705-377-7999.