Windsor food bank using conveyor belt for safe hamper pick-up amid COVID-19 second wave

When COVID-19 began, local food banks started booking appointments or operated drive-thru pickups to safely provide people with food. But the arrival of cold weather has meant they've had to get creative yet again. 

Donations have been pouring in for the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association

The food bank at Windsor's Unemployed Help Centre is using a conveyor belt to deliver food to recipients. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

When COVID-19 began, local food banks started booking appointments or operated drive-thru pickups to safely provide people with food. But the arrival of cold weather has meant they've had to get creative yet again. 

Two weeks ago, the Unemployed Help Centre (UHC) started running a conveyor belt to hand out "food hampers" to people so that staff can remain contact-less with customers.

The transition, CEO of the UHC June Muir told CBC News, has meant that staff don't need to wait in the cold or directly interact with customers. 

"We feel we have a really safe set up and it still is not where you have to make an appointment, because when you have to do that, it takes a lot more time. So it goes pretty quick. And we're hoping when spring comes, we can go back to that drive-thru model that works so well," Muir said. 

Since the start of the pandemic, Muir said the food banks have serviced 113,000 families, with more than 6,000 being first time users.

In the "food hamper," Muir said they are providing people with food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including cereals, canned meats, bread and vegetables. 

And while the food has been plentiful, Muir said she encourages people to continue to donate as she knows supplies will dwindle. 

June Muir, CEO at the Unemployed Help Centre, says they have serviced more than 100,000 families and expect to service many more as the second wave of the pandemic is hitting Windsor-Essex. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"We know after Christmas the donations are going to be a lot less, so the food that we're getting we're trying to make it last. The Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association, the hub for 15 food banks, we are taking that food, we're trying to divide it up each and every month so that the allotment we divide will last a month and we're hoping to get through," Muir said.

"We know we're hitting a second wave there's going to be more people laid off ... we want to be there to support people." 

To help out with food donations, two Windsor Lowe's locations donated $27,000 from its Heroes program. 

"We found a lot of success, a lot of giving in our community and that speaks for the community in which we live and work and we should all be pretty proud," Lowe's store manager Lino Tesolin told CBC News. 

An additional $500 was donated to the UHC through the the Windsor Firefighters benefits fund, firefighter Derek Bull told CBC News. 

Lowe's store manager Lino Tesolin says two Windsor locations donated $27,000 to the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"I had no idea of how big this the [UHC] facility is and what they do there. They're cooking for people, preparing meals. They have a grocery area where you can come in, pick your food, your canned goods. It's an amazing operation that they have down there," Bull said. 

But due to COVID-19, these sorts of operations have been significantly reduced to prevent the spread of the disease. 

For those unable to make it out to the food bank, Muir said they can deliver. 

Sounds of the Season is our annual fundraiser in support of the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association. It's also a chance to take a closer look at the reasons people in our region are in need, and the steps being taken to help them. 

Sounds of the Seasons is going to look a little bit different this year because of COVID-19. While we can't gather in person, we can still come together to fight hunger in our community. 

  • During the week of December 7, Windsor Morning's Tony Doucette and Windsor News at 6 will speak with Windsorites who are assisting — and facing difficulty — during this time. CBC Windsor will also highlight lived experiences and stories of giving and community.  

You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more information and updates.

Donate to the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association now!

To find out how to donate food in your area, click here.

Learn more about hunger in our community or access Feed Ontario's 2020 Hunger report here.


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