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More than 400 teens need Leamington's food bank — most ever

Essex County food banks are seeing an increased demand for their services — and having a hard time keeping up.

'We have a lot of people in need — and they need your help'

Lonnie Jones, centre, and Brad Webster, right, organizers at two food banks in Essex County, joined the CBC's Tony Doucette on the Dec. 10 edition of Windsor Morning. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

Essex County food banks are struggling to keep up with demand.

Lt. Brad Webster runs the Leamington Salvation Army food bank with his wife, and he says they've seen a drastic increase this year.

"We ran the numbers last night and I looked at new households — an increase of 152 new households," said Webster. "We were already at 257 households last year." 

Webster says they can't quite put their thumb on the reason for the increase.

"I assume that with 80 per cent of Canadians living paycheck to paycheck it only takes a small illness — what do we choose? Do we choose to eat or get healthcare?" said Webster.

Brad Webster with the Salvation Army in Leamington says their shelves are very minimally stocked right now. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

Donations were few and far between over the summer, Webster says. When school started, families had increased expenses and food bank attendance skyrocketed. 

"We've seen a big drop in our donation base, which has carried over into the winter," said Webster. "Our shelves right now are very minimally stocked."

According to Webster, the Leamington food bank has had to dip into reserves from the Kettle Campaign to keep up with the 272 households they serve. He adds that they serve more teenagers than any other demographic.

"We went from 157 teens last year to more than 400 teens this year."

Webster has been running the food bank for the last three years and says they can't help without support from the community.

"We're here so they don't have to make those hard decisions between buying your child a winter jacket or putting food on the table."

In Essex, Lonnie Jones with the Essex Area Food Bank says they're worried about the fallout from the Oshawa General Motors plant closing.

"We're just a little bit afraid of the challenge maybe of the aftermath of GM and we're starting to hear people talking about job losses because of that," said Jones.

Lonnie Jones with the Essex Area Food Bank says they’re worried about the fallout from the Oshawa General Motors plant closing. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

Jones has been involved with the food bank for almost 20 years and says the Essex food bank helps about 185 households a month. It's mostly single parents and seniors who come for assistance.

"We're feeding 50-60 people each time we open our door," said Jones. "If that increases to the 80 range then it really becomes tough for us."

Jones says it's hard to get good food to the people who need it.

"We have a lot of people in need — and they need your help."

CBC's Sounds of the Season food drive helps 15 area food banks across Windsor-Essex, including five in the county. 

The need for food banks in the region has increased by about 10 per cent in the last year.

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