Manitoulin Help Centre calls for food and funds as demand for assistance rises to almost 800 families

MANITOULIN—Manitoulin families are now more than ever requiring on the needs of the Manitoulin Food Bank, just as food banks across Ontario are seeing a rise in their use—over 335,000 people and one third of them children—largely due to a lack of full-time employment and rising electricity rates.

As of press time Monday, the call for Manitoulin Food Bank Christmas hampers had so far reached 770—up from the previous year’s record of 557 hampers delivered, and this before the start of December.

According to a Monday press release from the Ontario Association of Food Banks, the 2016 Hunger Report states that, “despite improvements in the economy, food bank use remains seven percent higher than pre-recession numbers, and illustrates how staggering hydro prices and lack of quality employment are contributing to increased hunger in Ontario.”

“Despite reports of economic recovery, food banks continue to see disturbingly high levels of use and need,” says Carolyn Stewart, executive director, Ontario Association of Food Banks, in a press release. “This is a direct reflection of the type of employment available to Ontarians, insufficient social assistance, and the dramatic increase in cost of living, particularly related to housing and hydro.”

The 2016 Hunger Report shows that while many Ontarians have gone back to work, fewer have access to secure, full-time employment that allows them to afford their most basic necessities on an ongoing basis. It is stated that one in three part-time workers would like to be working full-time, but are having trouble finding these opportunities. The report also includes a feature on Ontario’s rising hydro prices and the added stress that increased hydro costs are putting on low-income families and individuals relying on social assistance.

“Over the past 10 years, the cost of hydro has risen over 100 percent in this province and yet social assistance has remained relatively stagnant,” Ms. Stewart continues. “Hydro increases are simply too much for the average Ontarian household, let alone for those on social assistance, living on a limited pension, or even working full-time on minimum wage.”

Nancy McDermid, program coordinator for the Manitoulin Help Centre and Manitoulin Food Bank, couldn’t agree more with the 2016 Hunger Report.

“The number one thing people say is that they are having a hard time meeting their electricity and utility bills,” she told The Expositor.

Year round, the Food Bank averages 110 hampers each month, servicing 313 individuals, 131 of them children. “And that’s growing exponentially because every month we’re seeing new clients,” Ms. McDermid added.

As the need grows, especially at Christmastime, so does the amount of food.

“We continue to receive an amazing amount of support from individuals and churches contributing to the agency—the ‘stuff a cruiser’ event initiated by the UCCM Police and United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising agencies under the leadership of Maamwi Naadaamaadaa, as well as many businesses and community leadership who organize their own methods of support to our campaign,” said Marnie Hall Brown, executive director of Manitoulin Family Resources, which runs the Help Centre and Food Bank. “Without the financial contributions of all of those and many, many more, as well as supportive funding through District Services Board, the coordinator’s position funded by the United Way, and the intern’s position funded by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, none of this would be possible.”

The Food bank has also received help from Barney’s Bargain Barn and have just confirmed a ‘stuff the bus’ food drive through the Manitoulin Rainbow Board elementary schools, with the bus generously donated by Brown’s Busing of South Baymouth.

Ms. McDermid encouraged people to give generously to the Food bank this Christmas, either through monetary donations or through the donation of food items. Food can be dropped off on December 19 and 23 at the Mindemoya Missionary Church to be used in the Christmas hampers.

“With the increase in hampers, we will also need an increase in volunteers,” Ms. McDermid urged.

Volunteer roles at the church include setting up the groceries as they are delivered from Dean’s Valu-Mart and Island Foodland (this year there will be two deliveries because of the increase) and filling the hamper orders. Strong volunteers may also be asked to help load the hampers into delivery vehicles (think bags of potatoes). Volunteers are needed from December 19 to 23.

“It’s a very heartwarming campaign, but it’s a double-edged sword,” Ms. McDermid added. “It’s nice that people are being helped, but scary that this many people need the help.”

To volunteer this Christmas, contact Ms. McDermid at 705-377-5532 x. 242.