Woolwich Food Bank cupboards are bare, leaving many low-income households in need of essential items. The summer months are beginning to wear on families in need trying to stretch their budgets to encompass basic supplies.
According to Woolwich Community Services, there is a significant increase in the demand for food hampers in Wellesley and Woolwich townships. WCS executive director Don Harloff says a slow summer is not unusual for the food bank but a combination of low donations and high demand is making this summer a special case.“This is most concerning, quite frankly. We have never been at this type of level before of not having basic products such as cereal. It’s remarkable the situation at this point,” `he said this week.
The food bank usually includes 39 essential items in its hampers but due to extreme shortages, the organization can only guarantee six: peanut butter, dry pasta, soup, canned vegetables, beans and Kraft Dinner. The other 33 items in short supply do not include the fresh produce WCS usually provides as nutritional supplements to the packages, Harloff explained, adding that so far the food bank is in relatively good shape when it comes to fresh items like milk and eggs, which are typically purchased with cash donations.
With the current rate of donations and funds coming into the program, it is unlikely that WCS will be able to obtain more food until the Thanksgiving food drives. Where 51 hampers had gone out to low-income households in June of last year, 65 hampers were handed out this June and the organization is rapidly running out of supplies after receiving more than 60 more requests for hampers this month.
“If you look at it from a personal standpoint, it’s never nice when a person has to come to a food hamper program to receive enough food to make it through a month. That’s a terrible tragedy for them and their family. Most people have a very difficult time getting to that point of having asking for food. I think that’s the true problem in our community at this time,” Harloff said.
With high unemployment rates in Ontario WSC expects even more food requests as the year rolls along. According to a Service Canada report, Ontario employment fell by 18,700 jobs in May, a decline made up entirely of full-time positions. The report also states that the province’s labor market is continuing to weaken as Ontario employment growth has been generally slowing down over the past year. Harloff believes the real issue lies in the increase of local families and individuals who are in need of food.
“We’re seeing more and more people who need the food bank. We are asking that the community, if they have the means to make a donation they can make those donations at the grocery stores that they shop in and we will be very pleased to pass them on to families.”