Food bank demand surges amid rising cost of living

The pandemic and the rise in inflation have made it difficult for many to afford the cost of living, creating a dramatic demand on food banks.

Typically, May is the time of year when food banks start to see a decrease in clientele, but this year is different.

"People that we would normally see coming off the food program are staying on, and new ones are being added," says Gravenhurst Against Poverty Food coordinator Linda Harrison.

The high cost of food, gas and housing has put people in more dire situations.

Gravenhurst resident Denise Morris is one of the 550 people to receive food from Gravenhurst Against Poverty weekly.

"There's been times I've gone to get dinner and walked out of the store with nothing. Because it's just too, too expensive to do," he says.

It's clear the effects of the pandemic are lingering.

"Before COVID started, we were only 50 to 100 people tops in a week," says Harrison.

It's a similar situation at Manna Food Bank in Bracebridge.

Staff say the biggest difference is the rise in new client numbers.

"Last month, there were 21 new clients that signed up with us. That's high for this time of year," says president Sam Robinson.

Robinson says she believes employment opportunities are playing a factor.

"People are wanting to hire. You can see the signs everywhere, but I'm not sure our client base has the skills perhaps for some of those jobs."

"What we're finding is that employers are looking for someone that's eager and willing to learn, skills can be trained," says YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka employment specialist Saleem Hall.

He says there is an opportunity for people who may not have much experience to make higher wages.

"A lot of these entry-level positions, whether it's back of the house in kitchens or doing some general labour work on contracting sites, those positions and those wages can garnish more than your traditional minimum wage salary," adds Hall.

Both food banks have been receiving a lot of support from the community and are grateful for any donations.

Manna says they are short on volunteers and urge anyone interested to contact them.