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Kinmount and Area Food Bank now open; seniors as clients on the rise in province

in Around Town/Community/Local News/Poverty Reduction/Seniors by

The Kinmount and Area Food Bank will officially open to the public Dec. 13, serving 45 families.

According to Kinmount and Area Food Bank Chair Grace MacDonald, it will be open every other Thursday, based on a schedule that alternates with the Coboconk Food Bank and will “serve 45 families who were using either the Coboconk or Minden Food Bank,” says MacDonald.

MacDonald chairs a group of volunteers that have been working over the last year to open the much needed local resource. Finding local sponsors, a location that had a health board-certified kitchen and getting police checks completed were just some of the things that MacDonald and her committee had to accomplish in order to open. In the end the group decided on the Kinmount Baptist Church (4937 Monk Rd., Kinmount.)

Kinmount and Area Food Bank board of directors.

“It is a great space for us,” says MacDonald. Adds Julie Wilkins, volunteer coordinator at the food bank, “The church is excited to further their outreach by housing the Kinmount and Area Food Bank.” While the food bank will be housed in the local church, it is a public initiative that will be run by and supported by the community.

The food bank, which is now a member food bank of the Kawartha Lakes Food Source (KLFS), received its first order of food from KLFS on December 3. The local food bank will be responsible for purchasing or obtaining all items to supplement the bi-monthly shipments from KLFS, which was also able to help with start-up expenses.

“Through a grant from Food Banks Canada and Enterprise Holdings Company, KLFS was able to provide support for much of the start-up costs.  Some of these costs include: new fridge, shelving, minor construction upgrades, and other items to support their operations. We are very happy to provide this support as it will allow them to purchase food to stock their shelves,” explains Heather Kirby, executive director of KLFS.

“We have mixed feelings about the opening of a new food bank,” continues Kirby. “While we are very excited and overwhelmed by the community support, the opening of a food bank confirms that there are still many who are food insecure. Our goal is to serve clients in their own community and ensure that access to food is easier.”

The Kinmount and Area Food Bank will not provide more food to those in need but allow people easier access in their own community.

“The decision to open the food bank is based out of the desire to serve clients in their community. We know that there are many barriers to accessing food and transportation is a large one in rural communities,” says Kirby. “If a family needs to rely on others to get them to and from the food bank, and that ride does not work out, then that family may go without food until they can secure another option.”

In KLFS member food banks, usage is tracked using a standardized data tracking system called Link2Feed. Explains Kirby, “Link2Feed is a standardized system used across Canada by a large majority of food banks. It gathers information that is used for advocacy and statistical analysis to identify trends. Clients are requested, but not required, to share information about their source of income, household type, level of education, and how many individuals are in the household. Homeless individuals can access a food bank at any time.  If needed, they can choose to use the address of the food bank or of the Social Services building. It is best if a client uses only one food bank. The client may choose a food bank based on many factors that could include: operating hours, transportation options, and comfort level.”

The local Link2Feed data paints an interesting, albeit sad picture and one that belies many people’s opinions of the average food bank client. The most recent data (for the month ended November 22, 2018) from KLFS member food banks shows, for example, that 287 households were served. Of those households, only 21.6 per cent reported social assistance as the primary source of income and 9.8 per cent reported old age security.

As was recently reported by the Ontario Association of Foodbanks, the increase in seniors’ emergency use of food banks: “This year, the OAFB has seen some troubling trends when it comes to food bank use, particularly when it comes to one of our most vulnerable populations – senior citizens. Over the past year, we are seeing a 35 per cent increase in the number of seniors visiting food banks. This growth is particularly concerning when looking at the aging population of Canada, where seniors are predicted to represent 23 per cent of the population by 2030.”

Given that our city skews older than the provincial average, this is something that should make us all concerned. But sadly, it is not just this troubling statistic that should worry us. The 2019 Food Price Report — an independent report produced by Dalhousie and Guelph Universities – predicts that food prices will rise 3.5 per cent and Ontario is expected to see “above-average food prices increase(s).”

The provincial government reduced the planned increases to social assistance from three per cent to 1.5 per cent. Minister of Labour Laurie Scott also stopped the planned increase of the minimum wage, capping it at $14 per hour with a possibility of increases in 2020. As reported in the Lindsay Advocate, the Ontario Living Wage Network recently calculated the living wage (what it actually takes to support a family of four, adjusted for local conditions) for Kawartha Lakes to be $18.42, or 31.5 per cent higher than the minimum wage.

When asked if recent provincial policy decisions will affect future food bank usage, Kirby replied, “Yes, we anticipate these measures taken will increase the need for food banks. Shelter, food and water are necessities of life. When shelter, and associated costs like heating oil, hydro and rent, far exceed what income is, they are left with very little to cover costs like transportation, medical expenses and food. Food is something that people go without because keeping a roof over their head and a way to get to and from work have greater priority.”

For more information on how to help or to access the Kinmount and Area Food Bank, contact the Kinmount and Area Food Bank at kinmountfoodbank@gmail.com. For emergency assistance, call 705 455 3060. To donate to or volunteer with the Kawartha Lakes Food Source visit www.kawarthalakesfoodsource.com or phone 705-324-0707.

with files from Roderick Benns

 

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A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Glenarm, Kawartha Lakes.

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