'This is the worst it has been' - Food banks struggle as Summer demand outweighs supply

Food banks in Hamilton are having a hard time meeting demand, with one operator describing the current situation as "heartbreaking."

One food bank operator says they have to limit the number of visits families make per month

Jewish Social Services, one of the smaller food banks in Hamilton, see between 45 and 50 families per month. Director Carol Krames says stocks are the lowest she's ever seen. (Submitted)

Food banks in Hamilton are having a hard time meeting demand, with one operator calling the current situation "heartbreaking."

And as they struggle to meet demand, they say it is only likely to get worse for the rest of Summer, usually their most difficult time of the year.

Carol Krames, director of Jewish Social Services of Hamilton, says things are so bad right now, they have to limit the number of visits families can make in a month.

"This is the worst it has been. It's heartbreaking," Krames told CBC Hamilton.

"People are in need and I know that people come to all the food banks, and it's unfortunate that we have to limit the amount of time that people can come because if we let people come as much as they needed to come we all would be out of business."

More customers than stocks

Krames said Jewish Social Services is one of the smaller food banks in Hamilton. They usually see between 45 and 50 families over a four-week period.

This is the worst it has been, it's heartbreaking.- Carol Krames

But she said the situation is the same at every other food bank, regardless of size.

"There are just more customers than stocks.You know how hard it is to keep your personal food shelves stocked, so could you imagine what it's like for a food bank keeping your shelves stocked? It's always a challenge and it's always difficult," she said.

"We are very mindful how hard it is for food banks to stay in business. It's not just the summer, it's all year round where we have this problem."

Celeste Taylor, resource development manager Hamilton Food Share, said this is usually a difficult time of year for everyone.

Celeste Taylor with the summer bulk buy of chicken as it’s being weighed. It will be distributed to Hamilton-area food banks starting today along with the rest of the bulk food purchase. (Contributed)

Hamilton Food Share is not a frontline service but instead supplies food banks in Hamilton with stocks. In 2017 they gathered almost three million pounds of food which was then shared with all of the food banks across the Hamilton area.

"This is always a time of year where all food banks face supply challenges," Taylor told CBC Hamilton.

"Sometimes families need a little bit more help in the summer when the kids are out of school, we understand that. So we just encourage people to still come to the food bank."

Hope flickers

Addressing the challenges facing the individual food banks, Taylor said that in the summer, neighbourhood donors sometimes go away on vacation or are not spending as much on community work as they normally would other times of the year.

Additionally, she said this is a time of year where the farmers are not quite ready to donate so there often ends up being a gap.

But Taylor said over the last 12 months, they have been very fortunate to receive more fresh food into the Hamilton network than ever before.

"Last year we saw a 31 per cent increase in fruits and vegetables which means massive numbers of fruit and vegetables - almost one million pounds going out annually to our food bank networks," she said

This is always a time of year where all food banks face supply challenges.- Celeste Taylor

The Hamilton Food Share manager said for 2018 they are focusing on protein items such as yogurt, eggs, chicken and tuna.

Taylor is also urging members of the public to go their local food bank with donations of food items.

"It's always appreciated, especially things that are healthy, high-protein items and whole grains, that sort of stuff."


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