The annual Ancaster Community Food Drive is in particular need of donations this year due in part to ongoing disputes between teachers and provincially-enforced contracts.
Usually school food drives are a boon for food banks. But with many teachers choosing to not volunteer in school activities outside of the regular work day in protest of government-imposed contracts, school drives have taken a bit of a dip this year, according to Jim LoPresti, co-chair of the drive.
'A lot of the drives that would normally be happening, the teachers aren't promoting them as aggressively as they have. There's been some tension there for several months and we're picking up a bit of that.'—Jim LoPresti, Ancaster Community Food Drive
"A lot of the drives that would normally be happening, the teachers aren't promoting them as aggressively as they have," he said. "There's been some tension there for several months and we're picking up a bit of that."
But LoPresti was quick to emphasize that a number of teachers come out to support local food banks on weekends and in non-school-associated drives.
The added pressure on Hamilton food banks due to the dip in school drives underscores the need for help. It's a struggle food banks face every year. After a steady flow of donations during the holiday season, food contributions tend to drop off while the need remains constant.
"The reality is, even with all of those [holiday] drives, the need is so great that the food will only last those families one or two weeks," LoPresti said.
The Ancaster Community Food Drive has helped cut down on this need every spring for 21 years. Over that time, volunteers have collected 1,120,500 pounds of food and more than $57,000. Last year alone, they set a new record by totaling more than 80,000 pounds of food, something LoPresti said they hope will be the new norm.
By launching an awareness campaign a week before the drive and canvassing door-to-door, the drive has had increased success year over year, he added.
"People don't have to come to us, we come to them," LoPresti said.
"But one thing that's been magical is we have 500 people that will come out on Saturday to volunteer. Young families, youth and many of our seniors. It's a real community event that's become part of the calendar of events for Ancaster."
The food drive will take place Saturday, Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. Donations can be made to door-to-door collectors, and volunteers are asked to meet at St. John’s Anglican Church Parish Hall, 37 Halson St, Ancaster.