Simon Malsi hopes to have a few more hours of work Thanks giving day to help him afford to put a holiday meal on the table.
The personal support worker said he is trying to secure more shifts to make ends meet as his family struggles to keep up with the soaring cost of living north of Toronto.
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Even with his wife’s part-time salary, Malsi said rent, gas and groceries have become so expensive that keeping his two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter well fed. Enough is a struggle.
There are plenty of other families in the same spot this holiday season, said food bankers, as the staggering inflation rate increases demand for their services while reducing the purchasing power of copper. their donation dollars.
Malsi showed up at the North York Harvest Food Bank for the first time on Tuesday with a plaid plastic bag as volunteers helped him pick items from the shelves.
For a family of four, a standard shipping might include four packets of instant noodles, one jar of peanut butter, two cans of tuna, two bags of lentils, two packets of spaghetti, one carton of milk, one boxes of yogurt, a fresh veggie and some other staples.
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Supplies are expected to last three days, but many families stretch them out longer.
Malsi said he hopes the supplement can make enough room in his budget to buy a roast chicken for Thanksgiving dinner.
“It’s good that we have (this resource). You can help people in need like me,” Malsi said. “We need other sources.”
North York Harvest Food Bank is one of a number of institutions nationwide that have reported a steady stream of new users since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Last year, 3,500 families accessed the network for the first time, said Henry Chiu, director of development and marketing. He expects that number to continue rising amid deeper fears of a looming recession.
So far, the community has ramped up their generosity to meet the growing demand, Chiu said.
The food bank relies heavily on financial donations to support its “choice” model, similar to a grocery store, allowing users to choose their own food from a wide range of options available. available.
Chiu says this bulk purchasing power has eased the blow of escalating food costs, while allowing customers to tailor their choices to suit their dietary needs and constraints. .
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However, he said, the organization is feeling a fallout across many aspects of its operations, including increasing costs of fueling its fleet of trucks.
North York Harvest Food Bank tends to see donations spike during the holidays, Chiu notes, and he worries about the potential for a drop when donation season ends, especially if costs go up. cuts in donors’ check books.
As financial stress increases, he said, Canada needs to look beyond short-term solutions to address systemic causes of food insecurity, such as lack of access to affordable housing. affordable.
“Food banks are necessary but only a Band-Aid solution,” said Chiu. “We need a stronger social support network.”
Meanwhile, some food banks say their grocery bills have increased as they work to provide more people with fundraising dollars that don’t go as far as they used to.
Communications coordinator Betty Jo Kaiser said the Calgary Food Bank’s 2019 budget for food purchases was $1.7 million.
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Back then, the organization expected to spend $2.4 million on emergency containment foods by 2022, she said. Now, that estimate has nearly doubled to about $4.5 million.
“We are now feeding thousands of people every week…. That’s what we’re doing day in and day out,” said Kaiser. “I can’t imagine anything worse at the moment, because the immediate need is so great.”
President Meryl Wharton said the Allan Gardens Food Bank in downtown Toronto is also straining to battle the pressures of rising demand and soaring food costs.
However, the team is hoping for a last-minute gift that will allow them to do something special for the 900 customers they’ve been looking forward to this week.
Wharton said before COVID-19, food banks used to serve whole turkeys or chickens for Thanksgiving. Now, they are waiting to see if a donation will be made in time to add poultry to the menu, he said.
At the very least, he said, the food bank will do what it can to ensure that no one goes without a holiday meal.
“We always make sure the customer gets something,” says Wharton.
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