Food banks ‘less and less taboo’
As the cost of living continues to rise in the Gatineau Hills each year, one business in Gracefield is looking to support lower income families from Low to Bouchette through food donations.
The food bank Au goût du jour opened its doors last July at 42 rue St. Joseph, and has since amassed roughly 80 to 100 customers each month, according to vice president Sylvie Lauber. It operates in collaboration with the Centre de Valorisation des Aliments de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau (CVAVG), an organization that aims to coordinate and support food, education and accessibility initiatives in the Gatineau Valley region.
Open to the public every Friday, Au goût du jour receives donations from a variety of sources: through donations from community members and from Centraide Outaouais, as well as multiple fundraising campaigns that the Au goût du jour team organize throughout the year. Additionally, Lauber stated that they receive large donations from Costco during the Christmas holidays. The food bank offers a wide selection of non-perishable food items and hygiene products, as well as fresh produce each week.
Deliveries from Costco and Centraide Outaouais are received through a warehouse at the back of the building, which is connected to the pantry and fridge room, where non-perishable and refrigerated products are stored. In the building’s main front room, customers are welcomed and given their products, which are packaged in boxes by volunteer workers. The front room also contains multiple chest freezers, where frozen goods are stored.
Lauber explained that since its opening, the food bank has been gaining more and more clients, however she expressed that she still feels that some of the lower income population within the region do not feel comfortable benefiting from this resource. She explained that the staff are doing their best to spread the word about its existence through events and advertising, but that it ultimately comes down to each individual’s own comfort level to visit the food bank.
“The people probably know [about it], but they don’t want to come,” said Lauber. She said that this is likely because it is a vulnerable act to receive handouts from a food bank, and that people are worried that going there will bring awareness to their financial situations. At Au goût du jour, she and her coworkers are working to destigmatize this.
“We know that lots of people don’t come because they don’t feel good about coming into a food bank,” she said. “But I think it’s becoming less and less taboo.”
Given inflation and higher produce prices since the COVID-19 pandemic, she added that she believes many residents are left with no other option but to come to the food bank.
“The price of food is outrageous,” said Lauber. “People have no choice now.”
Lauber stated that she hopes to communicate to the community that the workers at Au goût du jour understand it takes courage to make use of a resource such as a food bank. For anyone with worries relating to privacy, she voiced that confidentiality has always been part of their protocol and that no customer’s private information is shared with anyone other than the main staff.
The team running Au goût du jour have plans to expand their efforts over the coming years. One way this is being done is through a community garden, which is in the process of being built behind the building. According to Lauber, the garden is almost ready to be opened and will be accessible to the public by next year.