‘Food should be a right and not a privilege’: Orangeville Food Bank director pleads with council for funding

April 20, 2023   ·   4 Comments


These difficult financial times are hitting much of Orangeville in the stomach.

Heather Hayes, the executive director of the Orangeville Food Bank, described to the town’s council during its Apr. 17 meeting just how steeply the need for the bank’s service has grown.

She asked council to provide the food bank with an annual $25,000 grant to support Orangeville’s food insecure.

Council has budgeted $20,000 each for Family Transition Place and the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival.

Councillor Debbie Sherwood suggested council match that amount for the food bank.

Coun. Tess Prendergast said, while the music festival is a good economic generator, the food bank provides something more important than entertainment.

In the end, council agreed to furnish the food bank with the requested $25,000.

Coun. Joe Andrews said the numbers that Hayes brought to council were staggering. To wit: When Hayes started at the food bank in 2015, she saw about 349 monthly visitors. Last month, the bank served 1,013 individuals.

That’s an increase of 190 per cent over 2015.

Between March 2019 and March 2023 there has been a 91 per cent increase.

“And, unfortunately, I am forecasting a 40 to 60 per cent growth this year alone,” Hayes said.

That growth in need will mainly be caused by housing and food costs, paired with the potential for an economic recession in Canada, she said.

“We have distributed 44 per cent more food so far this year as compared to last year’s total annual, and are on track to process half a million pounds of food this year,” she said.

Sharing builds partnerships, she said. In some cases, it provides additional free warehouse space to store product for future use.

The community garden provided by the town enabled the food bank to grow about 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables that is distributed to clients. There’s also a program by which residents with a garden can grow a row to donate a row.

And there are summer students that maintain gardens at schools for the food bank.

“We’re focusing on adapting to the needs of the community, which includes finding new ways to get food to the people,” Hayes said. “Not people to the food.”

Only 20 per cent of people who require support find their way to the service. That’s another 80 per cent of the community that needs support but doesn’t get it.

“In the next few months we are launching additional programs that will move food into the community, making it more accessible and providing options for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at very affordable prices if not below market value,” she said.

Given the vantage afforded her by her position, Hayes can tell stories about who uses the food bank and why that would starkly illustrate the level of need in the community, she said.

“I can make you cry at the drop of a hat,” she said. “It’s a specialty of mine.”

She wagered that all of us know somebody who has used the food bank or has needed the service.

“It’s not the nameless soul that you think it is that needs the food bank,” Hayes said. “It’s our friends, literally our families, and literally our neighbours.

“People’s resiliency is fading. It’s been hard on the volunteers to take in the stories because the situations are increasing in complexity.”

It isn’t just hunger, she said. It’s housing, mental health, and the many other things that crumble when one runs out of resources to deal with a problem.

“In no reality should anybody have to come to us and ask for food,” she said. “That’s not right. Food should be a right and not a privilege. And, right now, it’s a privilege.”

Food insecurity is an income problem, not a supply problem. And no food bank in Canada gets provincial or federal support.

“We are the only level of the social safety net that does not receive funding,” Hayes said. “Food banks need your help.”

Readers Comments (4)

  1. George Popovic says:

    I just did a bit of research on the wholesale food prices and found that $25,000 would buy ALL of the following:

    38,460 pounds of potatoes
    7,140 pounds pf rice
    25,000 pounds of lentils
    5,000 pounds of pasta
    1,000 liters of vegetable oil

  2. I’m so thank full for the food-bank. They were their when I needed it. Heather fully understands what is like. I had to feed my son on low income and so thankful she is running it. Now I clean it and been so blessed to all staff . I’m so thankful to praise Jesus for paying back for what they do for me. I work hard to make sure this food bank is spotless and loved. Thank you for blessing me.
    Love Wendy Sullivan.

  3. Sue-Ellen Patcheson says:

    You dont feed the poor by funding food banks. You feed the poor by eliminating poverty and implementing policies that ensure everyone has access to a livable income. This is not the responsibility of charities and non-profits, it is the responsibility of all 3 levels of government.Their refusal to accept and address these responsibilities is simply passing the buck on to the backs of others. Write to your government representatives and tell them that this is not acceptable.

  4. John Green says:

    It is a very sad commentary that neither the Provincial or Federal Governments Fund Food Banks. Jesus said, “Feed the poor.!


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