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‘Tis the season for food banks

Pressure on food banks across Canada is mounting as the Christmas season approaches, and Thorold is not escaping the increased need.
Maxine Hutchings (l) and Muriel Tanner of the Thorold Community Care office stock the shelves for a busy month ahead. PHOTO LIDDYCOAT

Maxine Hutchings, manager of the Thorold branch of Community Care, told the Thorold News that their office is taking in between six and 10 new families every month. “Some families are moving into Thorold from other areas, sometimes to be near other family members,” she said.

Added to the rise in families needing assistance is the fact that food donations are down a bit this year and housing costs are eating up a larger portion of expenses for people on fixed income.

Another disturbing figure is a 10 per cent increase in the use of food banks by seniors across Canada, and this is also evident in Thorold.

“The parade was a great one this year,” said Hutchings. “The volunteers did a wonderful job. And the 600 pounds of food it collected will help, but it’s down a bit from previous years.”

Hutchings said the unprecedented rise of housing costs, combined with the need for clothing, transportation and medical care means there is less money available to people on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) to spend on food. And this puts more pressure on the food banks.

She stated, “People on fixed income often have to decide which of these items they should spend their money on.”

The 16th annual combined donation from the Canadian Corps Unit #44 and Todd Marr’s Foodland of $5,000 has helped stock the shelves.

Corps president Mike Reid said, “This is something we need to support. The membership provides a cash donation and Todd (Marr) matches it with the most needed items. We’ve been doing this for the past 16 years.”

“Todd Marr always tries to fill the shelves with the items which are most needed,” said Hutchings.

This year, those items include cold and hot cereal, crackers, canned meats, fish, stews, chili, canned pasta, canned fruit, and baby formula and cereal.

“We also need Christmas items like stuffing, gravy, turkeys. And we like to get fresh produce whenever possible. Todd is so helpful every year,” said Hutchings.

She reminded residents that the Thorold Firefighters are having a food drive this weekend, Friday through Sunday at Foodland.

Community Care runs a Christmas registration program to help families out through the holiday season.

“We will help eligible families, especially those with kids who need food and toys. There is a great need and yet some people still don’t know the program exists and that they are eligible. We try to reach everyone, especially at Christmas,” explained Hutchings.

Registrations began Nov. 15 but are still being accepted. “We want to make sure everyone has a good Christmas,” said Hutchings, “so they have to register very quickly.”

Thorold has always supported their programs which allow people to adopt a family for Christmas. “While it’s too late for this year, after Dec. 1, we focus on adopt-a-teen or adopt-a-senior programs,” she said.

“The adopt-a-family program often focuses on the kids and forgets about teens who are on their own. They need things like back packs, movie passes and other things they’re interested in.”

Community Care has also seen a rise in the homeless in Thorold. “Most often it’s people who ‘couch surf,’ moving from friend to friend to stay for a few days because they have no place of their own,” Hutchings explained.

The Thorold Community Care office at 19 Albert Street West, is a distribution centre for cheques to ODSP and OW recipients. “And we can help with utilities,” explained Hutchings. “The program is run out of the St. Catharines office, but because transportation also costs, people who can provide documentation can pick up the support at the Thorold office.

“We are so thankful for this community and the donations and support we get. It is an ongoing struggle,” concluded Hutchings.

Protection Hose Co. #1 is holding a food drive this weekend to help Community Care. Details here.