Local food bank clientele shifting
BARRIE, ONT. -- The need for help to put food on the table didn't melt away with the snow as winter thawed into spring. But the executive directors of two local food banks say who is asking for that help is changing.
"We've had many more single individuals between the ages of 18 to 40 that are accessing our program than have historically," says Chris Peacock with Orillia's The Sharing Place.
Peacock says some of those seeking help are doing so for the first time, having never experienced poverty before. These are clients whose jobs, especially in the hospitality industry, have been disrupted by the pandemic.
Barrie's Food Bank is seeing a jump in calls for help from the opposite end of the age spectrum.
"The number of seniors that are coming to us is up," says executive director Sharon Palmer. "It's up quite a bit. It's almost twice as many as we would have seen a year ago, so that's one segment that concerns us."
In both cities, the rising cost of housing is stretching people living near or in poverty to their limit.
"We're dealing with a lot of members that are having trouble finding affordable housing, the cost of food is outpacing inflation, so it can be a challenge," says Peacock.
A study released last week by PadMapper, which analyzes rental data from thousands of listings across the country, ranked Barrie the third most expensive rental market in Canada, behind only Vancouver and Toronto. The website put the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Barrie at $1,730 a month, only 60 dollars less than Toronto.
Barrie's food bank is finding ways to adapt and serve those without a roof overhead.
"They need much smaller packages, and they need things that are ready to eat. A lot of them don't have cooking facilities, so you have to take that into consideration," Palmer says.
While the issue of food insecurity is spotlighted around the holidays, Peacock stresses that it's a year-round struggle and that most people who need help never reach out.
Palmer and Peacock agree the best way support food banks is with donations of money rather than food. Officials can maximize the potential of those dollars, buying goods at wholesale prices.