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Orangeville Food Bank use has doubled in last seven years

September 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

In what was something of a startling revelation on Monday evening, Orangeville Food Bank Executive Director Heather Hayes informed Town Council Monday that the organization has seen “more than a 100 percent increase” in the demand for its services since 2011.

In providing her annual report to  Orangeville Council, Ms. Hayes noted that more and more local residents were becoming reliant on the community’s food bank. In August, she said, the organization saw 565 people pass through its doors looking for food, an “unusual number.”

While the misplaced stereotype may be that it’s only the community’s low-income families who have to rely on the food bank week by week, she was quick to set the record straight.

“When you think of the people who come through our doors day after day, you probably have a typical idea of who they are, and what they look like,” Ms. Hayes said. “I’m here to tell you tonight that we don’t see typical in our food bank. Typical looks a whole lot like you and me.”

The most startling statistic Ms. Hayes shared with council and a room of roughly 200 onlookers at Tony Rose arena – the venue for this term’s final meeting of council – was the increase in the number of seniors requiring some level of assistance.

“In the last four years alone we have seen a 240 percent increase in the number of seniors using our food bank,” Ms. Hayes said. “The upsetting thing for me, is a lot of those seniors told me how happy they were just to have an apartment in town, saying it’s okay they don’t have food, as long as they are warm and dry. That’s not okay in my books.”

That was, apparently, a direct nod to the eye-watering increase in the community’s rental market over the past few years. Many, Ms. Hayes said, simply don’t have enough money to go around to cover “all of the basics.”

“We’re finding our clients don’t have enough income to pay for rent or mortgage, bills, clothing, transportation, medicine and food. Food is one of the most flexible household costs, and is often the first thing people sacrifice when they’re short on funds,” Ms. Hayes said. “Affordable food continues to be a barrier people face in our community.”

In the last year, the Orangeville Food Bank has distributed more than 93,000 pounds of food to people in the community, serving 4,500 individuals – approximately 1,150 families and 500 individual residents. The food bank has seen an increase of seven percent in family use from this fiscal year to the last.

According to Ms. Hayes, it’s because of the support of the Town, as well as the “overwhelming” backing of the community, through food gathering events, individual donors and generous local organizations, that the food bank is able to do what they do in helping vulnerable residents.

“For the past 26 years, we have been almost entirely supported by our community. Utilities and rent continue to be our biggest expense, with rent alone costing us $50,000 per year. We don’t get any provincial or federal funding, so we’re always very grateful for the support the Town gives us,” Ms. Hayes said.

In 2018, the Town of Orangeville pledged $10,000 in support of the Orangeville Food Bank.

Despite the potential for negative attitudes and mindsets, Ms. Hayes says she’s encouraged every day by the individuals who make use of the local facility. She recounts a recent story, when a mother with young children asked if the food bank had any juice boxes available. Having just given away the last multi-pack, Ms. Hayes informed the mother that, unfortunately, there were not any left. What proceeded “warmed her heart”.

“A young girl, possibly in her early 20s, turned around to this mother, grabbed a pack of juice boxes from her basket and handed them over, saying ‘you need these more than I do’,” Ms. Hayes remembered. “The grace and dignity I see, the warmth and support of others, it’s incredible. There is an unwritten basic truth among users of our food bank – people only take what they need, and often leave things behind so that others can have more.”

For more information on the Orangeville Food Bank, visit orangevillefoodbank.org.

         

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