Visits up at local food bank

September 20, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews

Senior citizens are the fastest growing demographic served by the Orangeville Food Bank, Dufferin County Council was told last Thursday, 

That was just one of the truths Heather Hayes, Orangeville Food Bank’s executive director, said. That image hung in the air like smoke as people pictured grandmothers and grandfathers trying to make ends meet.

In August, 692 individuals were served by the food bank, Ms. Hayes said.

“We’ve never done that much before,” she said. “Thirty-five percent of that was children and 13 per cent were seniors.”

The food bank served 89 senior citizens in August. That’s compared to an average of just three senior citizens a month in 2011.

“Dignity is at the heart of everything we do at the food bank because it takes a lot of courage to come through our front door,” Ms. Hayes said. “We should be nothing less than sunshine and lollipops, which is the professional term.”

The Orangeville Food Bank began about 27 years ago when a group of local women saw a need for such help. Today, as many as 100 volunteers regularly help out at the food bank to “take care of our neighbours, our friends, our families, and our community members,” Ms. Hayes said.

“We continue to exist because of the generosity of (Dufferin County) Council and of the community. Food banks receive no provincial or federal funding.”

You get a clearer picture of that generosity when you’re told some of the numbers of people helped out monthly by the volunteers at the food bank. And then there are other numbers many people wouldn’t think about: Ms. Hayes said the rent is about $50,000 annually and the food bank shells out as much as $10,000 for utilities.

The food bank provides three to five days of food for individuals a month. Milk and eggs are guaranteed. About a dozen different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables. And meats are also available.

Ms. Hayes said 50 per cent of what they distribute is fresh and perishable. Last year, as much as 100,000 pounds of fresh and perishable food was distributed through the food bank.

Food and usable damaged product comes from local grocery stores and bakeries in Orangeville and Shelburne.

“I see a lot of stories in a day,” she said. “I said see. I didn’t mean hear. Words are one form of communication. But the look in a person’s eye, the slump of a father’s back, the weight of a mother’s worry on her shoulders, that’s where the real story is told at the food bank. It’s not in words.”

Speaking to county council, Ms. Hayes said much of county staff’s time is spent mulling road studies, conservation plans, tax rates and such.

“For an average of 12 per cent of your constituents, those aren’t the pressing issues,” she said. “Food is. At the heart of every day, at the start of every day is food.

“Well-fed people are productive people. Well-fed people are healthy people. Well-fed people learn. And well-fed people can dream about a different future story for themselves.”

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