Barrhaven Food Cupboard Sees 50% Use Over Last Year

By Charlie Senack

The Barrhaven Food Cupboard [BFC] is coming to the end of their busiest year yet which stretches demand and resources.

On Dec. 9, hundreds of bags of food were donated to the Barrhaven Food Cupboard and the Ottawa Food Bank during the annual Loblaws/OC Transpo holiday food drive. OC Transpo buses were filled outside of the Loblaws Grocery store at Marketplace and McDonough’s Independent Grocer next door.

During the recent annual Barrhaven Santa Claus parade held on Nov. 19, 28 boxes of food and $1,900 in cash was collected. A Giving Tuesday initiative brought in $20,000 in cash.

Matt Triemstra, director of communications at the BFC, said the community stepped up their support in 2023. This July, they raised a campaign to raise $180,000 to keep their doors open during the increased demand. It was met by October.

“We have 127 individuals who have donated throughout the year and our growing base of monthly donors has become important for us. We are in a better financial situation but we are not fully funded for 2024,” Triemstra said. “The grocery stores have also been our main supporters. They have been great to drive awareness.”

On average, the  Barrhaven Food Cupboard helps feed about 450 families every month. In June, they served over 1,400 people, totaling about 400 families.  That’s about a 50 per cent increase compared to this time last year, with the food cupboard sometimes seeing 25 families a day.

The increased demand has meant changes to how the Barrhaven food bank operates. In some cases families are being given less, and this year the Christmas Hamper program was canceled because they didn’t have the funds. It would cost about $60,000 to run, Triemstra said.

“This year every client who came through our doors in the month of December got an extra gift card in recognition of the holiday season. They were given a $50 gift card on top of their food which is called around $125 dollars,” he said. “We hope we can bring back some of our regular programming in 2024.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Triemstra expects their demand for service will only continue to grow. He said they are relying on more monthly donors to help purchase food.

While physical donations of non-perishable items are welcomed, financial contributions allow the Barrhaven Food Cupboard to buy in bulk and target products they are in most need of.

“Food prices are increasing. I’ve got a family of five and we are paying at least $2,000 a month on groceries,” said Triemstra. “Inflation has really brought the demand and since we moved to the Walter Baker Centre, more people know where we are.”

Financial donations to the Barrhaven Food Cupboard can be made through their website at Physical donations of food can be dropped off at many bins located in grocery stores across the community.

The annual Loblaw/OC Transpo Food Drive took place o Barrhaven Dec. 9.

Charlie Senack photo