Five weeks into the COVID-19 crisis in Canada and the demand on local food banks, like the Grenier des Collines, has continued to grow.
On April 1, when The Low Down last reported on the status of local food banks, France Landry, a project officer with the Grenier, reported that the non-profit organization, which offers food aid and mutual aid services to the MRC des Collines-de-l'Outaouais, served 117 residents – nearly triple the usual 30 the organization normally sees.
Since then, Grenier des Collines has served 217 residents – 60 of whom were children – over a seven-day-period, April 3 to 10, said Landry.
“We had to order food from a grocery store in Gatineau because we were running out,” Landry explains. “The weekly order we get from Moisson [Outaouais] was not enough, so we ordered $1,700 worth of food to top it up, and that's just for the week.” Moisson Outaouais is a regional food bank and distributes food to other food banks.
Armond Kayolo, general manager of the Moisson, said that the Grenier isn’t the only one of the 41 food banks they supply coming to them with increased demand. He said they are experiencing a 200 per cent increase to rural food banks and a 75 per cent increase to urban ones.
“We have enough stock now, but it's quickly depleting and grocery stores have less and less of what we need,” said Kayolo. “If we can't find what we need at grocery stores, we have to go and buy from suppliers.”
Both Moisson and the Grenier are asking residents for any support they can spare, though what they need most is donations in the form of money since it allows them to purchase exactly what they need directly while protecting their employees from potential contamination during a pick-up or delivery of food.
Fortunately, on April 3, the federal government announced $100 million dollars in aid to local food banks across Canada. Will Amos, the member of parliament for Pontiac, who has been working with local food banks including volunteering and making deliveries for the Vallée-de-la-Gatineau Social Development Table, said he is working to coordinate the distribution of the funds and is planning a teleconference call with regional food banks to plan the rollout.
Amos said he has also been discussing the possibilities of local food banks taking advantage of the announced changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program. Although the details have not yet been finalized, the federal gov’t plans to extend the program’s subsidies from 50 per cent of wages to 100 per cent, and expand the qualifications to essential services and part-time positions, such as working at food banks.
“Our food banks will have an opportunity, and I will ensure they take advantage as much as they need, for free employment, and youth who are unemployed will have the opportunity to be employed – and paid by us,” Amos said. “That's all being worked out as we speak.”
If you would like to volunteer for the Grenier, send an email with your contact details and volunteer availability to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone wishing to donate food or cash can contact the Grenier by phone at 819-457-1010. The Grenier also accepts cheques and PayPal donations.
Donations to the Moisson Outaouais will benefit all 41 food banks in the region. If you would like to donate to them, you can go to moissonoutaouais.com and press the “make a donation” button, or send a cheque by mail to 37, rue Bombardier, Gatineau, QC, J8R 0G4.
Amos also suggests making a donation to the Centraide Outaouais COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support social aid programs on a broader range in the region. You can donate to that fund at centraideoutaouais.com and click the “I give” button.