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Demand up, donations down, food banks running dry

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Windsor, Ont. -

Food banks in Windsor-Essex continue to see growing demand while food and monetary donations appear to be down.

Officials at the Kids First Food Bank in Windsor say they’ve seen a weekly increase of seven to 10 per cent of people needing help since last May.

“Things are definitely tighter,” says executive director Angela Yakonich. “And we are seeing much more of an increase than we saw last October at this time.”

Yakonich says June 27 Miracle Food Drive donations are running low after being shared between other local food banks and deserving groups. Now, staff are contemplating a return to pre-pandemic food bank service hours to meet the increased demand.

“Last year, we had a lot left from June 27th miracle. The donations were up a lot more because people were in that panic with COVID,” Yakonich explains. “Now, I think what’s happening is its sort of the norm and they’re kind of forgetting, or they’ve been out of work for so long they just can’t afford to donate like they were.”

Yakonich also points to an uptick in students being sent home from school due to COVID-19 exposure, saying it puts a strain on a family food bill.

“We are finding a little bit of families that have to isolate right now, with kids being at home, they’re in need of more food as well,” she says.

Officials with the UHC Hub of Opportunities, formerly known as the Unemployed Help Centre (UHC), say the Kids First Food Bank isn’t alone.

“It’s not that we don’t have any food,” says CEO June Muir. “But we don’t have the food that we need to fill the hampers or put on the shelves for people to grocery shop.”

Muir is also president of the Windsor-Essex County Food Bank Association which represents 15 food banks in the region. Muir tells CTV News the miracle food drive helped thousands of people, but donations are drying up faster than last year.

“We received approximately 140,000 pounds of food for 15 food banks,” she says. “We have approximately 7,000 pounds left which might sound like a lot, but it’s not.”

Muir points to the high cost of living as a reason for many first-time users utilizing food banks.

“We still have not recovered from COVID and I don’t know when we will,” she says.

Meantime, the Kids First Food Bank is holding a food drive at the Rec Fitness Centre in Essex leading up to Oct. 9, when they’ll set up at the Real Canadian Superstore on Dougall Avenue for Thanksgiving Day weekend.

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