Food Banks Have Been There in the Past and Will Continue to Support Canadians During Covid-19
COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity and poverty across the nation. During this crisis, Food Banks Canada and its network of food banks and associations have stepped up to support Canadians in these difficult times. Danielle Lalonde, director of communications for Food Banks Canada, explained that food banks across the nation have been hit hard by the pandemic and had to adapt quickly.
“Food banks [across the country] have all have been severely impacted, with the nature of these impacts varying over the course of the pandemic,” Lalonde said. “[…] Right when the pandemic started, food bank use shot up across the country, then when the government implemented CERB, it tempered it in certain regions.”
For example, food banks across the country were losing volunteers as older adults, the majority of food bank volunteers, were staying home more given their higher risk of contracting COVID-19. To make up for loss of labour, some food banks had to create paid employment opportunities to cover for jobs typically done by volunteers.
There has been a reported 50% drop in food donations because of cancelled food drives and fundraising events due to frontline demands. Additionally, the economic hardships and the massive layoffs means more people are relying on food banks. When schools moved to remote learning to reduce the spread of COVID 19, breakfast and lunch programs were closed. As a result, Food Banks Canada facilitated the provision of healthy meal kits to children who would have normally accessed these in-school programs. Food banks across the country also adopted new methods of delivering resources to people in need, such as home delivery or car pickups.
“Some of the spots that continue to see epic use are major urban centres like Toronto and Ottawa, and they have as early as last week said things are trending in a disturbing upward fashion still,” she said.
Hunger and food insecurity are multilayered and long-lasting issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Government supports such as CERB offered partial relief but as those programs end, food banks are bracing for an increased demand for their services. Lalonde challenges the perception held by some that food banks are ineffective as they only provide a short-term solution. In reality, food banks work towards alleviating food insecurity through advocacy for long-term systemic changes, while also giving immediate and necessary resources to people in need.
“The single most prevalent cause of food bank use is poverty, so we make policy recommendations and we do a ton of advocacy to help change food bank use,” she said. “We’re here for people. […] We are not willing in the meantime to allow people to suffer.”
If you want to support food banks in your community so they can continue to support people in need, Lalonde noted that people can give either funds, food, or time to help sustain this resource.
“If you can give one of those three ways, we are always appreciative,” Lalonde said. “We expect that food bank use will be a crisis for years to come because of the pandemic. […] This will be an ongoing, life changing crisis for millions and millions of Canadians for years to come.”
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.