This blog post was provided by Rachel Dixon, Manager, Corporate & Foundation Partnerships from Feed Ontario.
As businesses close their doors across Canada in response to COVID-19, food banks remain on the frontlines to ensure families and individuals in need still have access to food during this crisis. Food banks are, however, facing a perfect storm of bad conditions during this time of uncertainty.
As more and more people lose income, employment, or access to regular food supports like school meal programs because of COVID-19 closures, food banks across Ontario are experiencing a surge in demand and are preparing to serve 225,000 people a month. This is nearly 20% higher than the number of people who accessed a food bank in Ontario in January.
On top of this increase in demand, food banks, like all of us, are struggling to purchase food locally. With temporary shut downs across global supply chains and more people needing to buy more food at once so they can stay safely at home longer, the grocery stores and wholesalers that many food banks rely on just can’t keep up.
At the same time, food donations are decreasing as more people are barely able to fill their own kitchens with enough, or are avoiding dropping off food to maintain safe social distancing practices.
Social distancing is also impacting the number of volunteers available to support local food banks — whether because fewer people can safely work in one space while remaining 6 feet away from each other, or because more volunteers are choosing to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This is especially important as many food bankers and volunteers are seniors and are at higher risk.
So even if food banks have the supplies to serve their community, many no longer have the human resources to get these supplies out to the families that need them.
Thankfully, we have a plan!
In partnership with local food banks and Food Banks Canada, Feed Ontario has developed a program to create pre-packed COVID-19 emergency food boxes for all food banks in our province.
By combining our efforts through these emergency food boxes, we will address labour shortages at local food banks, increase physical distancing measures, and address food shortages locally — all while ensuring food is getting into the hands that need it most during this crisis.
Each emergency food box will provide enough food to help someone in need stay home and stay safe during this crisis for two weeks. The box will contain $100 worth of food, including pasta, cereal, rice, peanut butter, canned protein, canned fruit and vegetables, crackers, soup, and juice.
With support from the province, Feed Ontario is able to get this project underway as soon as possible to ensure struggling Ontarians have access to food in the coming weeks. The generosity of industry partners, as well as countless individual donors, moves us much closer to our goal of providing emergency food boxes to our communities’ most vulnerable.
But the need in Ontario is great, and grows each day this crisis continues. Continued community support is critical to respond to this extraordinary situation in a sustainable way.
Here are 5 simple ways you can help:
- Donate online to Feed Ontario’s Emergency Food Box Program: For just $30, we can provide an emergency food box that will supply enough food to allow someone in need to stay home and stay safe during this crisis for a full week.
- Start a fundraiser in support of Feed Ontario’s Emergency Food Box Program: Easily signup and start your Feed Ontario COVID-19 Emergency Response fundraiser on CanadaHelps. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll have access to our fundraising toolkit, social media shareables, and an email template to help you encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to help Feed Ontario during this crisis.
- Donate funds to your local food bank: Find your local food bank on the CanadaHelps’ special COVID-19 food bank page to make a donation to supply additional resources such as cleaning supplies.
- Donate food and cleaning supplies to your local food bank: Contact your local food bank to find out what they need most and how you can safely drop off your donation. In Ontario, you can find your local food bank on the Feed Ontario website. For the rest of Canada, you can find your local food bank on the Food Banks Canada website.
- Spread the word: Follow and share Feed Ontario’s social updates on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to help spread the word.