More employed people relying on food banks to survive

Food bank use in Windsor-Essex continues to climb according to the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association, citing food inflation as the number one cause.

Officials said a 22 per cent increase was reported during the first quarter of 2023 and they fear local food banks will struggle to match demand.

“Food inflation is higher than inflation,” said association president June Muir. “We have people on fixed incomes. How do you make ends meet when food is so costly and able to provide and have a normal healthy life? It’s hard on everyone and we’re seeing it.”

Muir, who also serves as CEO of the Unemployed Help Center – Hub of Opportunities, said donations are down at this time of year, suggesting things that are critical for many families and individuals.

“Who we see today is not who we saw before. We have a lot of people working,” Muir explained. “It’s not one specific group. There’s students, there’s seniors, there’s newcomers.”

Muir said between January and March 2023, 49,000 people were in need of donations and more employed people were seeking help.

“Everybody wants and needs help,” she said. “So the last thing they’ll buy is food, which I understand because they want to keep a roof over their head. But at the same time, we need to keep our shelves stocked and that’s becoming a real issue.”

Staff at Kid’s First Food Bank report a dramatic increase as well.

“For the first four months of the year we’re at about 50.4 per cent increase in food bank usage,” said executive director Angela Yakonich.

“The price of groceries is absolutely insane right now. So we are seeing a lot more usage of people who are working. We’re now seeing an increase in working poor for sure. People just can’t afford it.”

Yakonich said the lineups to get in the food bank are starting hours before the doors open and more people are calling to see if they can get some food quickly, while juggling a job.

“It’s very challenging,” she said. “One of the things we’re looking at is opening one evening per week for people who are working.”

“We are seeing a rise in newcomers, but we’ve always had newcomers using and accessing our food bank. I am answering the door at least a few times a week, people coming through the front door saying that somebody sent them here to use our food bank.”

Meanwhile, at Devine Mercy Food Bank on Wyandotte Street East, volunteers say they’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of clientele.

“It worries us that we’re not doing enough to help,” said treasurer Betty Dadd.

“We try to give them as much as we can. You have to realize there’s the working poor. They might have a job and their minimum wage, but when they have five or six kids, how do you feed those with the wage that they’re making?”

Dadd said every month dozens of new people come to the food bank which is only open one day a week, suggesting donations are always welcome, but limited.

“It does make us worried,” she said.

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