'Windsor has been hard hit' by pandemic, says food bank association president
'We had a lot of hospitality jobs that people were laid off from once the pandemic hit'
A new report shows what many food banks have been saying over the past year and a half — more and more Canadians are reaching out for help.
The findings are contained in the newly-released HungerCount 2021 report from Food Banks Canada, which surveyed almost all of Canada's 4,750-plus food banks and community organizations. It's the first comprehensive look at food bank usage across the country since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
June Muir, CEO of the Unemployed Help Centre Hub of Opportunities and the president of the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association, said this region is no different.
Muir said there were 9,000 new users at regional food banks From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
"Windsor has been hard hit. We had a lot of hospitality jobs that people were laid off from once the pandemic hit," she said.
"We saw that peak and that need really rise once the pandemic hit last March, 18 months ago. So things have levelled out, although with the recent announcement of Stellantis, we feel that the need is going to rise."
The report said Canadians made 1.3 million visits to food banks in March 2021, a 20.3 per cent increase compared to March 2019, which is the sharpest rise since the 2008 economic recession.
In Windsor, the UHC Hub of Opportunities saw a 74 per cent increase in its use, serving 115,000 people between April 2020 and March 31, 2021.
We're finding that the food donations are not coming in like they had before.— June Muir
However that increase is in part bolstered by the fact that the UHC took on the clientele of many area food banks that couldn't serve clients safely in the early stages of the pandemic in Ontario.
"Many of our food banks had to close during the pandemic because they could not serve clients safely," Muir said.
"So when we opened up our drive thru, that created a lot of people to come to this food bank."
Muir said even though some people have gone back to work, the instability of the last 18 months may mean they still need help.
At the same time there are people who still haven't been able to return to work. And with Christmas around the corner, she said the need is still great.
"We're finding that the food donations are not coming in like they had before, and obviously we're going to need a lot of support," she said.
"So if you're able to donate, please do so."
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With files from Katerina Georgieva