'Without a place like this, you'd be done': Food bank demand at all-time high
Food banks across Simcoe County and Muskoka are experiencing unprecedented demand.
From Wasaga Beach to Orillia, volunteers and staff with foodbanks are seeing a 30 percent increase in clients over the past month.
Christina Armstrong said she has never seen it this bad.
“It is enormous.” Armstrong serves as the manager of Wasaga Beach Ministerial Food Bank. She said the need for food banks in the region is growing and those who feed people in need are struggling to keep up with demand. “Beginning of the month, it would be busy, but now it's just about every week and we're open in the evening,” she explained.
The food bank in Wasaga Beach on Mosley Street has extended its hours during the week and on weekends, feeding more seniors and single people than ever.
Armstrong said more families require the food bank as they struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table. She said they helped as many as 43 families just last week.
“We're not used to that kind of amount of people. We're used to 20 and 30 at the most, now we're getting 40, 50 and up to 80 people,” said volunteer Lynn Beaton at The Sharing Place Food Centre in Orillia where clients were lined up out the door on Friday afternoon.
“We're seeing a massive increase,” Chris Peacock, The Sharing Place executive director told CTV News. “Busiest month ever with 1,700 people.” The Orillia food bank on Dufferin Street typically serves 1,200 to 1,300 clients every month.
“I’d be sitting in there for a good half an hour, because there's so many of us,” said Jeremy Cadieux. The young man admitted he doesn’t often visit The Sharing Place, saying there are so many families in need and he would rather seek help elsewhere.
Cadieux is one of hundreds of men and women between the ages of 24 and 54 who food banks say account for 50 percent off all clients.
“Without a place like this you'd be done,” said Paul Einarson outside The Sharing Place. “You'd starve. You'd probably be out doing crime or whatever to survive.”
Marisanne Buzza interviews potential clients and guests at the food bank in Wasaga Beach. Buzza said it's often seniors - now using the service - who feel ashamed after having once donated to the cause.
“People are in tears, they're embarrassed. They've worked. They've always been on the other side where they were able to give.”
Food banks and clients remain in desperate need of help, calling on the community for continued support through the holiday season.