Ottawa Food Bank makes ’emergency’ $500,000 grant to network banks; donations down eight per cent in 2022

Ottawa Food Bank makes ’emergency’ 0,000 grant to network banks; donations down eight per cent in 2022

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Citing “crisis-level” food insecurity in the capital, the Ottawa Food Bank said Tuesday it was distributing a $500,000 emergency grant to community and emergency food banks in its network.

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Last month, the Ottawa Food Bank (OFB) and its 112 member agencies reported more than 40,500 customer visits to food banks across the city – a 24 percent increase from November 2021 and “a new record”.

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Donations are now down about eight percent compared to 2021, OFB said in a media release on Tuesday, appealing for more support to ensure no one goes hungry.

“Our food bank is experiencing unprecedented demand,” Matt Beutel, executive director of the Lowertown Community Resource Center, said in the press release, adding that both emergency relief and more and sustained investment to reduce poverty are needed.

One in 10 Lowertown residents visit the board at least once a year, said Beutel. Visits have doubled since 2017 and have increased by more than 3,000 since last year.

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“The situation is urgent and will only get worse.”

Partage Vanier’s Jean-Michel Rousseau said it was registering about 30 new families a week and was seeing families again who hadn’t needed them in years.

“When our team asks people where they feel the greatest stress, the answer is clear: people’s income just doesn’t match the cost of living,” Rouseau said.

The Ottawa Food Bank said the emergency grant will allow member agencies to buy more food as demand exceeded food banks’ stock levels. The OFB said it had heard that many people in need were being referred to other programs and were preparing to turn people away.

“When will we acknowledge the health crisis our city is facing?” asked CEO Rachael Wilson.

“This is an unprecedented time for Ottawa. The increasing number of visits to food banks is occurring at an unprecedented rate, necessitating emergency response. The cost of basic needs is becoming increasingly prohibitive.

“Wages and welfare rates have not kept pace, and people are relying on our network of panels to make ends meet.”

Food banks will be essential until all levels of government work together to address the cost of living, Wilson said, with a need for adequate income, affordable housing and mental health support.

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