Usage and food costs at the Six Nations Food Bank continues to rise, to the point they’re having to turn people away.
“We’re desperate,” Food Bank Chair Mary Monture says, but she assures people they’re not going away.
They’re appealing for donations as the busy holiday season approaches and the number of visitors continues to increase year over year.
By Nov. 13, the food bank had 11,154 visitors. Monture anticipates the number of visitors in 2023 will exceed the number of visitors in 2022, with an additional 1,000 people needing to use the food bank this holiday season before the year is over.
But without any regular funding and a whopping increase in food and delivery costs this year, the food bank is appealing to the community for donations.
The cost to purchase food in 2022 was $119,898. Monture says the cost this year is going to be $195,000.
“These costs are excluding items such as egg cartons and bags to pack food. If you add them in our costs would be close to $200,000 in 2023. There is a big difference with the cost of food and supplies increasing. This is why I submit proposals to the (Six Nations) Community Trust and send out appeals through a donation letter. We still host Euchre Tournaments and a Golf Tournament as fundraisers and participate in Community Awareness. We also partner with different organizations such as Redrum Motorcycle Club who did a fundraiser for us.”
But there has been no financial help from Six Nations Elected Council this year, she said, and the food bank operates on sporadic donations throughout the year.
Adding to the need is the fact the food bank waived the $5 fee when Covid started in 2020, resulting in even more of a financial strain to keep the place operating.
“We lost that revenue,” said Monture.
They’re also in desperate need of equipment upgrades.
Their 10 year-old computer doesn’t work anymore, they need a new fridge and the food service cart is falling apart.
They also need more volunteers.
“People say they’re going to volunteer and they don’t show up,” said Monture.
The food bank received a number of donations during the holidays last year, said Monture, after a Two Row Times article highlighting their needs resulted in community businesses stepping up to the plate.
“They were very generous. They gave us the ability to purchase more food.”
She said she was grateful for those donations and is hoping community members and businesses will donate again.
The food bank, which serves the community on pick-up day every Thursday, made a few changes this year, with an enclosed delivery space that now allows for confidential drive-through service that keeps visitors warm, dry and ensures their privacy.
The Six Nations Food Bank has applied for a charitable registration number which Monture says they’re hoping to receive in 2024.
They’re also hoping to partner with the Six Nations Christmas Baskets program so that the turkeys and hams available at both programs are spread out to everyone who needs them, instead of having the same people receiving double and leaving others without during the holidays.
The food bank gives out a turkey or ham every year for its Christmas bag and the deadline to apply this year is Dec. 7.
They have 250 turkeys and 50 hams they can afford to give out at this time but Monture says they’re definitely going to get more than 300 visitors for the Christmas bag, which goes out Dec. 14.
Six Nations isn’t the only community feeling the crunch when it comes to food costs.
“If you listen to the news, every time they talk about a food bank, there are increased numbers, increased costs,” said Monture. “It’s not just here. It’s everywhere.”
If donations don’t come in, the food bank will have to lessen the amount of food days it offers, or give out less food.
Standard items handed out every week include tuna, pasta, a soup, drink crystals, pasta sauce or canned tomatoes.
If they have it, they’ll hand out bread, eggs and milk.
Monture says it breaks her heart when some visitors come and there’s nothing left to give out.
“The last two people get nothing. Where some of the other ones got everything. There’s nothing left to hand out. How do you manage that? It does (break my heart).”
Elders on a dismal income of ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) or Old Age Pension make up a large number of their visitors, too, Monture said.
“I mean, we’re desperate,” said Monture.
But, she said, “We’re not going anywhere. Serving our community is priority.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the food bank for the upcoming holiday season can send an e-transfer to email@example.com.