By Charlie Senack
The Barrhaven Food Cupboard expects to hand out over 500 Christmas hampers this holiday season after rising costs force more people to look for help.
The local food proving agency, which moved into its current headquarters in the Walter Baker Centre, first saw a rise in calls for service after the COVID-19 pandemic left many people jobless.
While the height of the pandemic is behind us, they are now being faced with an affordability crisis driven by the high costs of food and living.
“Over the last eight months or so, we have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for food from clients that exist and new clients that come to us,” said Barrhaven Food Cupboard president George MacDonald. “From this point last year to this point this year, it’s increased by 45 per cent.”
That demand has meant the food cupboard is purchasing more food than ever before and is relying on a bigger team of volunteers to feed families. The facilities hours have also needed to be extended.
“It’s almost totally a result of the inflation we have seen over the last year,” said MacDonald. “The people that we serve are often those who are living on the edge financially. With an increase in food costs of over 11 per cent, it’s made many people reach the point where they need to come to us.”
Food costs in Canada are rising at the highest rate seen in 41 years, and it showing no signs of slowing down. Fresh fruit has gone up 11.9 per cent; fresh vegetables have gone up 11.8 per cent; baked goods have gone up 14.8 per cent; the cost of meat has risen 7.6 per cent.
Every year the Barrhaven Food Cupboard creates Christmas hampers to give to families needing support during the holiday season. Over the past two years, gift cards were distributed in their place because of the pandemic.
Physical hampers will be distributed again this year, with families also receiving a gift card. In total, each hamper will be worth around $125.
“It’s an opportunity for any family — regardless of whether it’s Christmas for them or not — to enjoy a little bit extra during the holiday season,” said MacDonald.
“A couple of years ago we had 200 hampers, two years ago we had 300 hampers, and last year we had 340 hampers,” he added. “This year we are predicting as many as perhaps 500 hampers.”
The Barrhaven Food Cupboard is asking for community support to get them through the bush holiday season. MacDonald is urging people to drop off food in their bins located inside many of the community’s grocery stores. He also said money donations can be done through their website: Barrhavenfoodcupboard.ca.
MacDonald is also urging anyone who needs help to contact them.
“We are pretty well known, but it’s always important to reinforce to the public that we exist,” he said. ‘We are here for a reason, and that’s to help those in the community that need food assistance.”