Orangeville Food Bank expects to distribute 650,000 lbs of food this year

September 14, 2023   ·   0 Comments


September is Hunger Action Month.

And who better to speak about the sobering statistics of local examples of hunger than Heather Hayes, the executive director of the Orangeville Food Bank.

She told Orangeville council on Sept. 11 that 180 volunteers have donated more than 24,000 hours this year to the work of helping fill people’s pantries.

“We have a staff that goes above and beyond every day to ensure that the food bank is organized, welcoming, and a soft, gentle place to land on a hard day,” she said.

Hayes said she recently approached town council to say that the system isn’t working, there’s an increasing need in the community, and council heard her plea.

Council pledged a donation of $25,000 annually for their term.

“You’re helping us become a community that thrives,” Hayes said.

In April, when she approached council, she said she anticipated a minimum 40 per cent increase in need for services among the community by December.

“In the last five months, we’ve seen a 21 per cent increase,” she said.

The local food bank served 11,051 people in August alone.

“That’s astounding,” she said.

Of that number, 364 people were children, and 288 of those people were senior citizens.

“That’s a huge increase,” Hayes said.

And the rising number of people accessing the food bank is all the more dire because winter is coming, and many families face additional costs associated with the season.

“We know that heating, clothing, and food will push people close to the line, needing even more support,” Hayes said.

The food bank saw a 78 per cent increase in the number of individuals who indicated their primary source of income is employment in the last five months. That’s 160 employed people who rely on the Orangeville Food Bank.

“That’s so much higher than it’s ever been before,” Hayes said. “They can’t make their bills and feed themselves at the same time.

“It’s ridiculous.”

Given that the need for food is at the highest it’s ever been, Hayes said the food bank wanted to come up with ways people could avail of help when the bank wasn’t available.

There’s a food vending machine at the town hall in which meals are 25 cents. And there’s the weekly neighbour’s market in Grand Valley and Shelburne, where people can buy produce at a discounted rate they quietly choose.

The food bank also supports pantry services, smaller food banks, and community agencies on an annual basis. In fact, the Orangeville bank distributed 91,000 pounds of food to such agencies last year.


“I’ve been asked this: Why don’t we just take care of our core people coming through the food bank?” she said. “Because when we work together, we’re stronger.

“When communities thrive and build on the strengths of each other, that’s how we get things done in Dufferin.”

Last year, the local food bank distributed 500,000 pounds of food. Yeah: A half-million pounds. That was a whole 100,000 pounds more than the previous year.

“That’s astounding,” Hayes said.

She reckons the bank will need 650,000 pounds of food this year to meet the growing need in the community.

“That’s an incredible amount,” Hayes said.

And it shows a need for systemic, societal change.

An image from the secretive street artist Banksy shows a figure covered in a blanket on a street. A cup is held outward. Written is, “I don’t need coins. I need change.”

Hayes said food banks shouldn’t have to be the answer to the current woes families are facing.

“I told you all the fabulous things we’re doing,” she said. “And I wish we didn’t have to do them.”

The government needs to invest in adequate income support, said Hayes.

Food banks have been relied upon to fill the gaps created by poor public policy.

“These stories at the food bank get harder and harder to hear,” Hayes said. “They become more complex.

“We need real solutions for food insecurity. Not the Band-Aids of what food banks are.”

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