Food bank usage up 10 per cent from last year, says Unemployed Help Centre
CBC Windsor has launched its annual Sounds of the Season food drive
Food bank usage at the Unemployed Help Centre is up 10 per cent from last year, according to the organization's food bank coordinator.
"We have this perception that food bank users are only people on Ontario Works or disability. But really, only 62 per cent of our users are on some kind of social assistance, so that's really not the case anymore," said Lynda Davidson.
The increased need has Davidson encouraging people to donate to CBC's Sounds of the Season food drive campaign, in which people can drop off food or cash donations at CBC Place on Riverside Drive West until Dec. 31.
According to Davidson, some of the remaining 38 per cent of food bank users who do not use social assistance are people who are new to Canada.
"They are sponsored. They have no income. They're not on Ontario Works or anything."
Sandhya Shanker, assistant to the executive director for the New Canadian Centre of Excellence, echoes that sentiment.
She says many newcomers rely on food banks when they first come to Canada because many are focused on acquiring the skills necessary to become self-sufficient.
"A lot of them come with very minimal English language [skills] so most of their time is spent in school, so they don't usually have that time to look for employment. Some members of the family try and find work, but it's Windsor, so it takes them a little while to get employed."
Shanker said food costs and the size of families are on the rise in Canada, and added the amount of financial assistance that newcomers receive from their sponsors "most of the time is not enough."
"Our families are pretty proud. They don't want to show that they have such high needs ... They want to provide well for their families and they do as well as they can in cutting their costs in other ways," said Shanker, adding a food bank is a great way to do that.
Cash and 'diverse foods' make great donations
CBC Windsor's Sounds of the Season campaign, which benefits the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association, allows people to donate either canned goods or cash — and according to Davidson, cash donations can be "stretched farther" than anything else.
"Because of the relationships that we have out there with some of the canning companies as well as the grocery stores, cash works best," said Davidson.
But that doesn't mean food donations aren't appreciated as well. Davidson said "diverse foods" work well for ethnic families. She added protein-rich foods, like peanut butter, are beneficial for children.
As for Shanker, she said canned foods aren't preferred by immigrant families because they prefer fresh foods instead.
CBC's annual Sounds of the Season campaign is now underway in support of The Windsor Essex Food Bank Association! Your generosity truly makes a difference to over 128,000 people every year. You can donate online or in person until December 31.