As grocery bills rise, more Hills residents are relying on food banks to fill their cupboards.
According to Moisson Outaouais president Diane Dupont-Cyr, demand at the region’s food bank has gone up by 37 per cent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. She says that with rising food and gas prices, families and elderly people are facing hard choices about what necessities to buy, sometimes having to decide, for example, whether to buy diapers or fresh produce, medication or bread.
“The demand for our services has increased since the start of the pandemic — especially among seniors who live on pensions and low-income families,” said Dupont-Cyr.
According to Moisson Outaouais’ website, 16,008 Hills residents rely on food banks every month, on average.
This organization distributes food and supplies to 72 affiliated organizations and community and private partners like the Paroisse Ste-Cécile de Masham and Le Grenier des Collines in Val-des-Monts — organizations which then distribute food donations to those who cannot afford groceries.
Dupont-Cyr expressed worry for young families who struggle financially.
“September is around the corner, so families will need to spend money on school supplies,” she said about that added expense, which Dupont-Cyr further explained may force families to have to choose between buying school supplies and food.
“Rural areas have also experienced a greater need for the services of food banks with factory closures and subsequent job losses,” she said. “In Gatineau and Pontiac specifically there has been a greater impact there.”
A board member with the Wakefield Food Pantry, Eva Plunkett, also noticed an increased need for food bank services locally.
“Through the pandemic – especially in the fall and winter months – more people visit the food bank. I guess this is because, in the warmer months, vegetables are a little more accessible,” she said.
Every year at Christmas, the Wakefield Food Pantry prepares approximately 40 boxes of food to those in need.
“The need has increased in January of this year and it has gone up,” Plunkett explained. “We [also] provide toilet paper and Kleenex and stuff like that because often those are the types of things that people can’t afford either. It’s not just food,” she explained.
Despite the increased numbers of people using the food bank, Dupont-Cyr said that generous donors have been helping keep the organization stocked with food, as they always have.
“So far, we have been lucky — the population has always responded very well to the needs of the region,” said Dupont-Cyr.
According to Plunkett, those who tend to donate the most are those who once needed to rely on the service.