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Oakville Food Banks experiencing a 3 fold increase in demand

homeless COVID-19
Oakville Food Banks experiencing a 3 fold increase in demand
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Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux is a reporter and writer who lives close to the border of Oakville and Mississauga. He has lived in the GTA for his entire life and is interested in global events, politics and government. follow on twitter @TommyDesormeaux

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The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened a lot of people’s livelihoods as well as their financial stability in Oakville. Luckily for the community, there has also been a surge in the desire to help out the less fortunate through food banks. Here are some ways people can take part.

There are many food assistance options in Oakville. Although some have closed or been forced to alter their strategies somewhat, there are still a lot of ways to go.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the amount of clients Oakville food banks are seeing, due to job losses and economic uncertainty caused by the provincial State of Emergency.

There has also been a renewal of the public’s interest in helping out the charitable community. According to Gary O’Neill from Kerr Street Mission, they have been serving approximately 150 more clients a week more than this time last year. Michelle Knoll, the executive director of Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre, says that her group is helping three times as many as they usually do.

In order to continue operating during COVID-19, these groups have had to modify how they operate. Both Kerr Street and Oak Park are now providing pre-packed meals rather than allowing customers to shop for their specific choices. Both have instituted heightened measures for hygiene and social distancing.

Food banks COVID-19

Oakville food banks are taking measures to ensure physical distancing among their workers, staff and volunteers.

Kerr Street now organizes their food and supplies in their gym where there is more space for clients, volunteers and staff. In response to the increased need they are seeing, they are now also open 6 days a week (every day but Sunday).

Oak Park has now moved some of their financial services online, or is offering them by telephone. This includes help with taxes, instructional videos over their Facebook page or simply offering counselling. Knoll says that some phone calls between staff and clients now last up to an hour. Many clients are experiencing “heightened anxiety” in these tense times.

food banks COVID-19

Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre and other Oakville food banks are offering 24/7 access to non-perishable items on porches and in bins.

Oak Park has also began allowing 24/7 access to non-perishable items by leaving them in bins on their facility’s porch. This is designed to help families who might not be able to access food during normal operating hours or for those who might be embarrassed to be seen taking advantage of a food bank’s services. Knoll and her staff were happy to see that the bins were almost never empty and that the community really stepped in providing food.

People are interested in helping with the food relief because they understand the importance of it right now

Both Knoll and O’Neill agree that there has been an influx of donations and food products since the pandemic began. “People are interested in helping with the food relief because they understand the importance of it right now,” says O’Neill. That being said, the downturn in the economy and COVID-19 restrictions have had their effect on non-profits and charities as well.

“Right now there’s a lot of interest and it’s been great but as time goes on, that will wear and our costs are up,” says O’Neill. Knoll agrees that continued support is crucial to maintaining the organizations that help those in need that help those who need food and supplies. Fundraising events are virtually impossible right now. She estimates that her organization is losing over $10,000 a month.

We couldn’t do it without community support

“We couldn’t do it without community support,” she says.

Oak Park usually serves around 1,000 Oakville families a year. In order to support them, people can donate food items and soap. Following their Facebook page for announcements on items needed and upcoming programs is one of the best ways to stay up to date.

Gary O’Neil says that Kerr Street always appreciates food and supply donations but that monetary help can go a long way. Kerr Street gets food at a discounted price so receiving money allows them to purchase the items their clients need the most. It could assure stability for their organization further into the pandemic.

To find out how to help Oak Park or Kerr Street you can visit their websites or consult OakvilleNews.org’s list of Oakville charities.

 

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