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‘Tis the season for food drives

Canadians across the country may still be recovering from their turkey hangovers from the Thanksgiving feast last weekend, but local food banks hope that this time of year also reminds them of those who are less fortunate in the community.

For the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, this time of year marks their annual Thanksgiving food drive, and this year the food bank has set a goal of 375,000 pounds of food.

Executive director Wendi Campbell says the need is such that there is no deadline for the drive either – it will run until they reach their goal, which was mid-November last year.

“There’s not too many people you talk to that don’t know somebody that has lost a job or is struggling to find new types of work,” she said, “and it’s touching all of our neighbourhoods in both the urban and the rural parts of our community.”

About three million pounds of food is needed to meet demand in the Waterloo Region every year, according to the food bank, the distributing agency which provides food to a number of local organizations throughout the region. Across Canada, 800,000 Canadians make use of a food bank each month, 37 per cent of which are children, according to Food Banks Canada.

DRIVEN TO HELP- Mike Mcrae (left), Jeff Adams, Vanessa Scott, Trish Botter, Natasha Abbott and Tina Bryson from Farm Credit Canada were at Riverside PS in Elmira Wednesday collecting food for the annual FCC Drive Away Hunger program. The school donated 695 pounds of food. The FCC reps also visited Mennonite Savings and Credit Union and Elmira Farm Service Ltd.

Essential items such as rice, stews, chili, canned fruit, beans in sauce and peanut butter are those that typically get depleted most quickly and are in the highest demand at this time of the year.

Last weeks Oktoberfest celebrations in Kitchener-Waterloo helped the cause as well; nearly 8,000 kilograms of food and $13,000 in donations were collected at the 42nd annual Oktoberfest Thanksgiving parade on Monday.

And for those interested in donating to the food drive, there are several local initiatives as well.

From Oct. 13 to 16, Farm Credit Canada’s annual Drive Away Hunger Tour rolled through southwest Ontario.

The food drive, which began back in 2004, involves tractors travelling through communities to collect food and cash donations for local food banks. The tour has collected more than 3.5 million pounds of food since its inception.

The Region of Waterloo Public Library is also preparing for its 10th annual Food for Fines food drive at local branches of the library, which runs from Oct. 19 to the 23.

“It’s an excellent way for us to contribute back to the community, which is really the goal of the public library,” said Rebecca Knapp, coordinator of communications at the library.

Donating one non-perishable food item will erase up to $2 in overdue book fines at the library, and there is no restriction on the size of fine you can pay off through your donation.

“A lot of times people will run up fines, and then be afraid to come back to the library, so this is a great way for people to give back to the community while wiping out their fines.”

In 2009 the library collected 2,857 pounds of food and waived $3,782.20 in fines, up from 2,842 pounds and $3,343.30 in 2008.

Campbell said it is these sorts of community initiatives which promote interest in donating to the food bank, as well as increase awareness of just how many people rely on its services.

“Although it’s dropping slightly, it still hasn’t dropped back down to what it was to prior to the recession two years ago,” she noted. “I think we’re all very busy, there’s a lot going on in our community and in people’s lives, and we do need those reminders that it takes all of us to pitch in as much as we can to help.”

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