Rising inflation drives food bank demand in Windsor
UHC estimates a 30 to 40 per cent growth in food bank demand over the last year
The rising cost of living in Windsor is driving a surge in people visiting food banks in the city.
Ali Bazzi, program manager at UHC - Hub of Opportunities, said the organization runs drive-through and walk-through food banks in Windsor five days a week a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays at Adie Knox Recreation Complex in the West End, and Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on the East Side, at the UHC.
And in the last year, the number of people making use of the food banks has grown 30 to 40 per cent, he said.
"A lot of people are struggling," he said at Adie Knox on Thursday. "People lost their jobs through the pandemic."
"There's a lot of sad stories, but we're here to help."
Bazzi said UHC is now buying food at prices that are about 20 per cent higher than they were a year ago, and the food banks feed about 250 families each day.
But it's not just families making use of the food banks: students are regular attendees, as well, as they struggle to keep up with rising expenses, while struggling to find jobs.
"There are no jobs in Windsor, so that's the main reason," student Harnish Thakkar said when asked what brought him to the food bank on Thursday. "We are just studying here and we are ... paying heavy expenses."
Uzzam Hafaaz, who's also a student, said he was looking for daily food items, like milk, eggs, vegetables, and bread on Thursday.
"In Windsor, there [is a] lot of unemployment," he said, adding that getting food at UHC "saves a lot of costs."
Both Hafaaz and Thakkar agreed that inflation was driving up costs, including the price of food.
Iranian grad student Jess Zamani, meanwhile, was making her first visit to the food bank on Thursday.
"It's really good for students, especially international students," she said. "It's a great help, actually."
Zamani is working part-time while she studies, but said the food bank was still a big help.
"I'm here in Canada less than one year, but I feel the inflation here," she said. "I'm not sure it's because of COVID, it's because of the Russian and Ukraine war."
"I'm not sure, but I feel the inflation."
Bobby Beruta has been visiting food banks in Windsor for about a year, visiting every two weeks or so.
"It helps us get through the rough times," he said. "We're grateful for it, because sometimes we don't have nothing at all."
He, too, has noticed the growing crowds at the food banks, and said there have been times in the past when all the food is gone by the time he gets to the front of the line.
"The cost of living is going high," he said. "Even the grocery store, the prices are high."
"It's ridiculous," Beruta said. "You go in there with $50, you come out with a small little bag. Before, you'd come out with three bags."