Windsor·Sounds of the Season

Food bank use up 16% this year in Windsor-Essex

Food banks in Windsor-Essex are seeing an increase of 16 per cent more use this year compared to last year, and more donations are desperately needed. 

UHC-Hub of Opportunities CEO June Muir says demand is high and supply is low

A line of people wait to get food at a UHC - Hub of Opportunities food bank at Adie Knox in Windsor, Ont. According to UHC, food bank use is up 16 per cent this year. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Food banks in Windsor-Essex are seeing an increase of 16 per cent more use this year compared to last year, and more donations are desperately needed. 

June Muir is CEO of UHC Hub of Opportunities — formerly known as the Unemployed Help Centre — and helps oversee 15 local food banks.

She said between January and October this year, 149,000 people have used a local food bank, up from 129,000 the previous year.

"What I see happening in our community are things I have never seen before, all while we're struggling as food banks to keep food on our shelves," said Muir.

"We are seeing people who are employed, on fixed income, seniors, so it has been very difficult for many."

A man wearing a dark green jacket standing next to a woman with facial piercings wearing a white hoodie and a grey jacket
Anton and Anna Lotysh are Ukrainian refugees using the food bank at the UHC Hub of Opportunities. Anna says knowing that she can eat is one less thing to worry about after starting from scratch in Canada. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Since moving to Canada as a refugee from Ukraine five months ago, Anna Lotysh has used the food bank at UHC Hub of Opportunities once before.

Her brother, Anton, who used the same food bank for the first time on Wednesday, moved to Canada five days ago.

"It means quite a lot," Anna said about having access to the food bank. "As newcomers, we don't have stability in our life and we have to start everything from scratch. Having assistance with food means a lot because I know that we will have something to eat today and the next day."

A record number of people used food banks across Canada this year, with high inflation and low social assistance rates cited as key factors in the rise, according to an annual report from Food Banks Canada.

The report showed there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in March, 15 per cent more than the same month last year and 35 per cent more than in March 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Muir said that locally, she continues to see people on fixed incomes, with jobs, and students using the food bank regularly.

As newcomers, we don't have stability in our life and we have to start everything from scratch.- Anna Lotysh, Ukrainian refugee using the UHC Hub of Opportunities food bank

A weekly food hamper program at Adie Knox in Windsor is often so busy, with long lines, people are often turned away with nothing.

"It's just heartbreaking to see people leave and not have food to leave with," said Muir.

Volunteers at the UHC Hub of Opportunities have noticed the increased usage too.

Michael Toma said the shelves empty "very fast."

A man wearing a grey hoodie, grey sweatpants and blue latex gloves packages a loaf of bread in a plastic bag
Michael Toma is a volunteer at the food bank at the UHC Hub of Opportunities. He said the shelves at the food bank empty "very fast." (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Another volunteer, who has helped out for seven years, is also noticing shelves empty quickly.

"We're getting a lot people that need food," said Mohamed Chreif. "Every day, we're emptying and refilling the next day.

"It's a daily thing we're doing."

What's needed in 2022?

While any donations are appreciated, UHC is able to make money go a bit further with their buying power and gives them the ability to get much-needed items. 

Muir is imploring working or able people to donate, even their "coffee money," like $5, which can go a long way, she said. 

UHC is looking for "anything you might eat that's healthy," such as:

  • Canned protein like tuna or salmon.
  • Canned fruit and vegetables.
  • Canned pasta.
  • High protein foods and cereals.
  • Healthy kids snacks like applesauce.
  • Healthy cereals.

UHC is also collecting coats for kids again this year, and offering a Keep the Heat program to help people in need with their expensive bills. 

Donate to the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association here!

Sounds of the Season is CBC Windsor's 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 city are in need, and the steps being taken to help them. 

Donate to the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association now!


With files from TJ Dhir and Windsor Morning


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