Volunteers prep Thanksgiving meals with food insecurity on the rise

It's that time of year when many get ready to sit down and give thanks over turkey dinner.

But for some, Thanksgiving is also a reminder of the challenges of putting food on the table.

"This is the time when many come together and gather around the table. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in our community who don't have the money to be able to buy the bounty of the holidays," said executive director of The Sharing Place Food Centre, Chris Peacock.

It's one of the busiest times of the year at The Sharing Place Food Centre in Orillia.

"Thanksgiving is coming up. People are coming in. Everybody wants to get food and that for the weekend," said volunteer Karen Low-On.

For the past two days, volunteers have helped dish out hand-prepared meals just in time for the holiday.

"We made turkey, dressing, mashed, potatoes and Brussel sprouts," said Low-On.

Over 300 dinners are heading out the doors, a record for the food bank, which is seeing a dramatic increase in demand.

"September was our busiest month throughout the entire year, and October is trending in that direction as well," said Peacock. "It means that we have to build up capacity, which means more food, which means we need to build up capacity."

According to Feed Ontario, the number of people using food banks was on the rise even pre-COVID-19.

"People need more money to be able to afford Thanksgiving, and that's what's happening right now is people are not making enough money," said Peacock.

But with community donations, countless volunteers and partners like Saint James' Anglican Church, many will still get to experience the spirit of Thanksgiving.

"The fact that we put out a really quality meal and that we were able to do it for less than $1 a serving was such an accomplishment for this team," said Nancy Hannah, program coordinator of Meals 4 Change.

In Barrie, the Salvation Army is also preparing its turkey dinner and is expecting to be busier than ever.

This year it's seen an increase of more than 36,000 meals compared to last year.

"We are on an increase now, so we already started to increase what we prepared so we have ample food for those who come looking for a meal," said Salvation Army executive director, Major Stephanie Watkinson.

Turkey dinner can be picked up at the Salvation Army on Sunday between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m.