There has been a significant increase in food insecurity across the region due to the pandemic, according to a recent press release by the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
As per the press release, when compared to last year, a 30 per cent rise in the number of new people and 21 per cent rise in the number of working families accessing food assistance was noted in the first few months of pandemic.
“About one in 20 households access food assistance in Waterloo Region,” said Katherine MacDuff, network programs and planning managers at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
MacDuff also added that about 50 per cent households are living pay cheque to pay cheque, according to a survey conducted by Canadian Payroll Association.
The Food Bank has been working hard with over 100 partner organizations in the region called the community food assistance network to meet the local food requirements. While most people are working from home, the Food Bank employees and volunteers are operating in their offices to ensure every person in the region gets fresh food.
As per a Statistics Canada survey, one in seven Canadians reported food insecurity in June and two per cent of people were living under severe food insecurity.
The organization has a strong network with local as well as provincial organizations like the House of Friendship, Ray of Hope Inc, Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and other provincial Food Banks through which they provide fresh, frozen food hampers and meals to those in need. They also organize events to teach different ways of utilizing and cooking food efficiently.
“I have heard from a lot of my friends who have reached out to the community food assistance programs and they have received an overwhelming response from them. I personally love cooking and I have attended a few webinars which have taught me new combinations of food by which I can use food efficiently,” said Amoy Tenant, a former student of Conestoga College.
While food insecurity in the region has become worse this year, the kind and helping hands have also showed up. In the first few weeks of COVID-19, nearly 20,000 people were supported through various donations, community meals and food hampers by the Food Bank.
“One thing that people don’t know is that 65 per cent of what we send to agencies is either fresh or frozen so lot of product is perishable,” said MacDuff. “We also support community meal programs. In Waterloo Region, we are really lucky; we have programs providing lunch and dinner seven days a week for folks in the community so they can access a warm meal.”
Students are also among those in need of food in Waterloo Region. In fact, they are some of the most vulnerable as they survive on their part-time jobs and many of them have lost these jobs due to COVID-19.
“Since the pandemic started, it has become so hard to even meet the basic necessities and one of them is food. Fortunately, I did not lose my job but I did have a pay cut due to which I am now spending all my money after food and other basic necessities,” Tenant said.
The Food Bank of Waterloo Region has been working closely with the Food Bank of Conestoga to provide needy students with fresh food hampers that last for about 3 days. Each student can apply at Conestoga Food Bank for food relief once per month.
Thirty per cent increase in food insecurity throughout next year is anticipated by staff and volunteers at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. Therefore, the organization is always keen to have new volunteers to contribute for their community.
“Everybody needs help sometimes and everybody needs support of their community and that’s something that we’ve really learnt through COVID-19,” MacDuff said.