Barrie councillor helps bring in donations for food bank during trying times
One Barrie city councillor recently put the pedal to the metal to improve his fitness while also giving back to those in need.
Over the last few months, in particular, Ward 10 city councillor Mike McCann has been inspired by the work done by volunteers at the Barrie Food Bank. After spending a significant amount of time over the summer involved in the rebuilding efforts of Barrie's south-end, which was devastated by a severe tornado in July, McCann said he wanted to give back.
"One of the great stories from that tornado was that there was actually more food than people needed and that excess food came to the food bank, and that's the kind of community that we live in," says McCann.
Wanting to improve his health while also giving back to the community, McCann decided to bike 1,000 kilometres and donate a pound of food for each kilometre travelled.
"I thought, well maybe if I bicycle, make a personal goal for myself to ride 1,000 kilometres and then I would donate a pound of food for every kilometre," McCann said to CTV News Barrie. "It was just a personal goal that I shared on Facebook; I didn't make a big deal about it."
McCann's project reached new levels with the Zehrs location on Yonge Street in Barrie decided to get involved, donating all 1,000 pounds of food as part of the initiative.
"It feels great that we're in a community that cares," says McCann. "It's about connecting, and about caring and about giving. I think the biggest reward you can give yourself is actually the gift of giving, and the more you give, I think, the better quality of life you have."
To get the food from the grocery store to the food bank, McCann asked his long-time friend Richard Bailey, who owns a pickup truck, to help. Little did McCann know the deep personal ties Bailey himself has to the Barrie Food Bank.
"To be able to be a part of this, not even knowing about coverage or anything like that, it was my way to just continuously give back," Bailey says.
Bailey, now a successful adult, relied on the food bank while growing up. After his family moved to the area in 1989, they were in a position where the food bank resources were critical to their survival.
"What the Barrie Food Bank in a way did for me was give me the ability to be able to focus on school, to go to those basketball games, to come home and know that my parents were less stressed, it helped make me who I am today," Bailey says.
The donation came at a critical time for the Barrie Food Bank. Officials say they are currently seeing the highest demand for services than it has ever seen in its history. Year-over-year, there is a 37 per cent increase in foodbank use.
"More and more families are using the food bank," says Sharon Palmer, the executive director of the Barrie Food Bank. "I think it's a reflection of what's happening with the price of rents, cost of living, gas, food etc. So it's really starting to hit families really hard."
In September, 970 households were served, with an average of about 100 pounds of food per cart.
While every donation brought in is greatly appreciated, Palmer encourages those wanting to help to make a financial contribution, saying those can often have a more significant impact.
"We can buy what we need and when we need it, and we really have greater buying power," says Palmer. "We always buy from our local grocery stores. They support us very well; they really help us out in terms of giving us excellent pricing."
The donation from McCann's efforts came at the perfect time. The city councillor is hoping that the action, coupled with the story of Bailey, will help bring in more support for the food bank.
"If what Rich did in having the courage to stand up and tell his story gives other people the courage to tell their story so that at the end the food bank gets more supply and maybe the people that are experiencing rough times in their lives feel more comfortable talking about their stories so at the end of the day they get more help, and there's more food in the food bank," says McCann.
For more information about the Barrie Food Bank and how you can help, click here.