The Ottawa Food Bank reports record usage in March as rising inflation continues to make groceries more expensive.
The food bank saw the highest service figures in its 38-year history, with a 39 percent increase in local food bank demand as of 2017. Figures in March also indicate a 20 percent increase in service compared to the same period last year, the agency said. . said in a press release.
Ottawa Food Bank CEO Rachel Wilson told CTV News at noon that these are unprecedented numbers.
“Before the pandemic, we served about 39,000 people every month. We are now close to 52,000 people turning to a food bank in Ottawa every month,” she said.
The Ottawa Food Bank says food banking was initially designed to provide temporary emergency relief in exceptional times of need, but now the cost of living is driving up grocery bills, meaning more people are turning to the food bank for help.
“About 60 percent of clients are on social assistance benefits and those rates have not kept pace with inflation. It’s almost impossible for those people and families to afford the food they so desperately need,” Wilson said.
She added that food is often the first thing people cut back on when times are lean.
“You can’t miss your rent; you can’t miss your heating bills, so the first thing to do is eat typical. You can buy cheap food, but we really want people to have access to healthy and nutritious food.”
The food bank is calling for sustainable government funding to ensure they can provide meals to anyone in need.
“Our industry is one of the only ones not receiving any form of sustainable funding from the state or federal government,” Wilson said. “This election is so important right now for us to vote for candidates who are committed to reducing food insecurity here in Ottawa.”
The Ottawa Food Bank partners with 108 member agencies to help deliver food to those in need. Wilson says those smaller food banks and support groups struggle daily to keep food on their shelves, and she says the need for donations is great.
“We need people to make donations online, donate in-kind in grocery stores and, more importantly, get people to vote in this election to ensure we end legal poverty here in Ottawa and across the county. “
Donations can be made online or at most grocery stores. Wilson says the Ottawa Food Bank’s great purchasing power makes it possible to turn $1 in donations from the public into $5 worth of food, especially fresh foods such as produce, meat and dairy, which cannot be donated.