By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It’s been difficult for many families to make ends meet in this hard-scratch economy.
As with so many people, community organizations, and even town councils, money has become tighter than normal for the Minden Community Food Centre.
Inflation reached eight per cent in 2022 and the cost of life’s necessities has become unwieldy for many people.
“Economists predict interest rates will continue to rise, as will inflation through 2023,” said Don Veno, chairperson of the community food centre.
Veno lobbied for a $10,000 grant from the Minden Hills township council when it met Feb. 9. Council will consider the request as part of the process to set this year’s municipal budget.
Mayor Bob Carter said the food bank is very important to the community.
The food bank helped more than 2,600 individuals in 2022. Nearly 40 per cent of them were children under 12 years old, and more than 20 per cent were between the ages of 65 and 95 years old.
Veno said the food bank is bracing for a challenging 2023.
“It has increased in numbers significantly, and it will continue to increase in 2023,” Veno said of visitors to the food centre.
Canada-wide, food banks have seen an average increase in need by more than 35 per cent over the last two years, he said.
With the cost of food, my only concern now is that Loblaws has thawed its price freeze on non-name food products. He fears other grocery outlets will raise prices.
The organization’s Christmas hamper program marked 28 years last year. And, he said, it was by far the most expensive and of highest demand than previous seasons.
“The MCFC provided Christmas hamper foods and necessities for 509 individuals,” he wrote in a letter to council. “Of those, were 187 children who also received toys.
“Christmas certainly would have looked very different for these families without our support.”
The cost of the Christmas hamper program is almost $24,000. And greater demand is anticipated for this year’s yuletide season.
“Families are unable to sustain the cost of food locally as well as the cost of living,” Veno said.
The township contributes $2,000 in waived fees annually for use of the community centre by the food bank, said Craig Belfry, the town’s director of community services.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell said the town has also been donating as much as $3,000 a year.
“I’ve been sitting here for 16 years, and I don’t think that number’s changed,” she said.
Councillor Pam Sayne said stressors have been increasing in the community.
“It affects everything we do,” she said. “People’s mental health, the stress levels that we’re seeing when people don’t have that basic food security.”
Many people who used to give to the food bank have recently been needing it, she said.
Coun. Shirley Johannessen suggested the food bank contact the various lake associations and ask they inform property owners about the need. A toll road fundraiser just as other organizations do is another avenue to generate some coin toward the cause.
“Just let people know what’s going on and go from there,” Johannessen said.