Feed Canada launching new program to assist Ontario food banks meet increased demand amid pandemic

 

Feed Ontario is launching a new program to help Ontario’s food banks meet the surge in demand related to the pandemic.

Dubbed the COVID-19 Emergency Food Box Program, it’s intended to help food banks provide for their communities while also minimizing potential exposure to the virus.

“As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, people are relying more heavily on food banks to help make ends meet,” Carolyn Stewart, executive director at Feed Ontario, said in a news release.

“But COVID-19 has also increased challenges for food banks, making it harder to acquire food locally and reducing the number of volunteers able to safely help distribute food,” she continued.

The program will streamline processes needed to operate a food bank, including purchasing food items in bulk and pre-packing individual food boxes prior to distribution, which will address local-level labour shortages, and support physical distancing measures.

“Through the program, food banks across the province will receive pre-packed emergency food boxes with enough food for someone in need to stay home for a full week,” Stewart said. “However, Feed Ontario has set an ambitious goal: to produce enough boxes for everyone who visits a food bank in Ontario to receive 14 days’ worth of food, or two boxes each.”

So far, the program has distributed 100,000 emergency boxes to food banks across the province, which is 22 per cent of the target 450,000 boxes.

Ontario’s food banks are preparing to serve 225,000 residents per month, which is an increase of nearly 20 per cent since January.

“Individuals across our province have been affected by COVID-19, and we know it has been particularly difficult for those living in poverty, facing homelessness, or dealing with precarious employment or unemployment,” Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, said in the same release. “That is why our government is proud to partner with Feed Ontario on their COVID-19 Emergency Food Box Program. We commend Feed Ontario on their efforts to address the challenges facing our local food banks, and for presenting an innovative solution. This investment will go a long way towards ensuring our most vulnerable and their families are kept safe, healthy and supported during this uncertain time.”

The program was made possible through financial contributions from Ontario Power Generation and Metro Ontario Inc., as well as logistics support from AMJ Campbell.

Several other companies have provided contributions in support of the program, including Hydro One, Ontario Toyota Dealers and Toyota Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, National Bank of Canada, and the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario—as well as $200,000 in donations from residents across the province.

“Feed Ontario would not have been able to accomplish this incredible feat so far without the support of its donors and partners,” says Stewart. “But the need in our province is great, which is why we will need continued support to maintain this momentum and achieve our goal.”

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