WINDSOR, ONT. -- Those worried about their next meal in Windsor-Essex look to be getting a helping hand with the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association receiving $503,781 in emergency funds to help those in need.

On Thursday, the Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh, Irek Kusmiercyzk, announced the funding outside of the Adie Knox Herman Recreation Complex where the Unemployed Help Centre (UHC) will operate a new drive-thru food hub.

“Here in Windsor-Essex since the beginning of the pandemic alone, over 50,000 children and adults have received food assistance,” said Kusmiercyzk, speaking to a handful of reporters at the morning announcement.

A total of $428,725 in direct funding is coming through the Government of Canada’s $100-million Emergency Fund while $75,056 has been used to buy food.

According to June Muir, the president of the local food bank association and CEO of the UHC, the funds will help to operate the food hub at the west-end recreation centre for the next 12 months — including through the winter.

“We aren’t able to continue to afford tents, and heaters, and different things to operate so, this is going to allow us to keep our drive-thru food hubs open,” said Muir in an interview with CTV News.

The food hub is being strategically located in the city’s west-end neighbourhood, as it has been identified as one of the regions with the highest child-poverty rate in the country.Windsor food bank drive-thru

The food hub, which also includes a walk-up path for those without a vehicle, already had a handful of residents attend after it officially opened on Thursday.

“We’re not pinching pennies by all means but, we are suffering a bit from the pandemic because of one person working, one staying home and home-schooling,” said Nadine Sekerak, a west end resident who attended the drive-thru food hub at its opening.

Sekerak appreciates the food hub and what it will mean for her family.

“This will help because I have three little hungry children at home who are always saying, ‘I’m hungry, I’m hungry,’” said Sekerak.

There are already clients that have thanked Muir for the food hub setup and Muir doesn’t believe that need is going away anytime soon.

“For families to try and keep up and buy nutritional food during this time, it’s very difficult so, they truly need this service, they truly need our help,” said Muir. “I must say, the people in Windsor have stepped up.”

The outdoor drive-thru food hub will see hampers distributed through no-contact methods, which is a much safer way of avoiding COVID-19 spread than a typical indoor food bank according to Muir.

City outside staff and CUPE Locals 82 and 543 workers have been redeployed to the food hub to help with distribution.

The food hub will operate every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the west-end complex.

“We’re just not about going out and rushing out and spending all the money,” said Muir. “We want it to last. We want to help people because we hear there’s a second wave (of COVID-19 cases) coming and if that second wave hits, we want to be prepared.”

Ward 2 councillor Fabio Costante represented the City of Windsor at the announcement and called the plan a “core service” for the west end.