JOINT RELEASE: Niagara Food Banks Raise Concerns
People Needing Assistance From Niagara’s Major Food Banks is Unprecedented
(May 6, 2021 – NIAGARA ON) Fourteen months into the pandemic, Niagara’s major food banks and social service agencies are rallying together to raise concerns about the unprecedented growing need for assistance throughout the region and the need for governments to work with service providers to act upon sustainable interventions and solutions to reduce increasing conditions of poverty across all municipalities.
These Niagara social sector and food security leaders are calling upon all government leaders to work with them to ease the burden of providing day-to-day basic life supports and to find longer range transformative and impactful solutions to relieving the growing poverty burden. The group of sector leaders are convening briefings with all levels of government to ensure that local officials are fully aware of the situation.
“Even with the income supports provided by government since COVID-19 hit, all of Niagara’s registered food banks are experiencing significant increases in the number of people we are assisting compared to a year ago. The high cost of housing along with low supply of affordable and safe rental units, coupled with the impact of the pandemic on service sector jobs is driving the surge,” explains Christine Clark Lafleur, Executive Director, Port Cares which runs the Reach Out Centre Food Bank in Port Colborne.
Betty- Lou Souter, Chief Executive Officer of Community Care, St. Catharines & Thorold shares that her agency is tracking an increase of approximately 37 per cent in those receiving food security over the last 14 months and the numbers continue to grow. “As well, there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of client interactions at Community Care through our Housing Help Program. The lack of affordable housing compounds the issue and many are becoming desperate and have given up hope. The mental health issues are intensified which puts added stress on everyone. Everyone should have the ability to live with dignity and purpose.”
In Welland, Jon Braithwaite, Chief Executive Officer of The Hope Centre is dealing with the same troubling trends. Jon explains that “As with most economic downturns, we expect the most vulnerable of our community will be the last demographic to recover. We are seeing significant increases in those who are in need of emergency food, including a 70 per cent increase in visits this April over April 2020. Most alarming is that we have had an increase of over 170 per cent in families with children turning to The Hope Centre for emergency food. Having to choose between having a roof over your head or putting food on the table isn’t a choice that any family in Niagara should have to make.”
In Niagara Falls where the tourism and service sector has been particularly hard hit, the increase in need is staggering. “Project SHARE has seen a significant increase in new clients accessing our emergency services during this pandemic. Since our fiscal year began on June 1, 2020, we’ve seen 587 new families come to us for help for the very first time. It’s no secret our local economy has been hit hard, and with the large hospitality industry we have in Niagara Falls many families are still out of work and struggling to meet their basic needs. We’ve seen some of our donors become clients, and unfortunately we anticipate this trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” says Pam Sharp, Executive Director, Project SHARE.
Carole Fuhrer, Executive Director of Community Care West Niagara (CCWN) explains that “CCWN exists to provide essential services and support to families and individuals in Lincoln facing economic hardship. Over the past 14 months we have realized a 23 per cent increase in residents seeking assistance with food security, housing assistance and support navigating the various programs and services that might ease their considerable burden.”
Carole adds, “In working with Lincoln residents as they strive to restore balance and self-sufficiency, we have observed that almost 25 per cent have openly shared they never thought they would need to seek our services. The effects of the pandemic are measurable – and our sector is keenly aware that conditions will continue to deteriorate and we will be serving even more people in the months to come.”
Members of the public who are looking to help these organizations are encouraged to do so if they can. All locations are taking non-perishable food and monetary donations at this time, as they continue to meet the needs of thousands in their communities.
ABOUT PORT CARES & THE REACH OUT CENTRE www.portcares.ca
- Since 1986, Port Cares has provided social services for people, young and old, not only in Port Colborne, but also across Niagara including Lincoln, West Lincoln, Welland, Pelham and Fort Erie. Port Cares provides services for housing, employment, skills training, a food bank, EarlyON Child and Family Centres, a meal program, utility assistance, counselling and crisis services- as well as seasonal programs like Coats for Kids, Give a Gift and more.
- Port Cares Reach Out Centre Food bank (ROFC) assists more than 1,700 individuals. More than a third of the people reliant on the ROFC Food Bank are children. Hot, nutritious community meals are also provided with 60 to 90 typically attend each meal in warm weather months and 100 clients attending at mealtime in colder weather. Currently there are more than 700 low-income local residents registered to receive the Meal Program which is up from 387 in March 2020 when the pandemic commenced.
ABOUT COMMUNITY CARE ST CATHARINES www.communitycarestca.ca
- Community Care, St. Catharines & Thorold is extremely proud of its legacy of uninterrupted service delivery for over 100 years. The agency continues to support its client base through their 20 integrated programs and supports to work through the challenges they have been facing throughout the pandemic.
- The current climate of uncertainty exacerbates the needs of today and many find themselves reaching out to make ends meet for the first time. We acknowledge that a collective voice is always stronger than a solitary one and working together to implement change is incumbent upon us as community leaders. We support this initiative to bring awareness to this issue and seek long term solutions on behalf of those throughout Niagara who have lost their ability to be independent and self-sufficient.
ABOUT THE HOPE CENTRE www.thehopecentre.net
- The Hope Centre was formed in 1974 (originally known as Welland Community Resource and Action Centre – WCRAC) by a group of concerned citizens and organizations who recognized that there were a number of people falling through the cracks of the social welfare system.
- The Hope Centre’s mission is to assist the most vulnerable citizens in Welland and the surrounding area by providing food and housing stability and to empower change increasing future resilience to poverty and increasing their capacity to be self-sustaining through counseling and training.
- For over forty years, The Hope Centre has helped to build and to strengthen Welland and the surrounding area by providing residents access to our Community Lunch Program, Food Bank, Housing Stability programs and many other services.
ABOUT PROJECT SHARE www.projectshare.ca
- For more than 30 years, Project SHARE has been providing essential support services that improve the lives of Niagara Falls individuals and families in need.
- As a non-profit, charitable organization, Project SHARE provides emergency food and support services to residents of Niagara Falls who are living below the poverty line. Each year, our emergency food program distributes over 840,000 pounds of food to more than 3,770 households.
- To end the struggle against poverty and empower those in need, Project SHARE offers 16 additional programs and services including housing and utility support, health and hygiene, community gardens, learning opportunities and special programs that support over 3,800 families at Christmas and 300 children with back-to-school supplies including sneakers, backpacks and healthy snacks. The acronym SHARE was established to represent support, housing, awareness, resources and emergency.
ABOUT COMMUNITY CARE WEST NIAGARA www.communitycarewn.ca
- Community Care of West Niagara (CCWN) has been involved in the local poverty conversation for many years. CCWN is a registered charitable non-profit organization that has served Lincoln (Jordan, Vineland, Rockway, Campden and Beamsville) and surrounding area since 1967. CCWN provides safe, low barrier service to people from all walks of life who've experienced financial difficulties due to job loss, illness, or other hardships.
- Local residents are spending an exceptionally high proportion of their income on housing, and for many the cost of healthy eating is becoming increasingly out of reach.