Today it is. The London Food Bank launches its 25th annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, running from today, October 4th right through to Thanksgiving Monday, October 14th. Every year, some in the media ask us to do something new and different to draw attention to the challenge we face as a food bank. We always take a pass on that challenge because in our view 3600 families a month coming to us directly for assistance is not only a significant news story but a deep challenge to our community as well.
And we’re not alone in that challenge. Consider this:
- 412,998 individuals accessed Ontario food banks in March 2012
- 38.7% of food bank users, or 159,918 individuals, were children (11,737 more children than in March 2011)
- 44.6 % of all food bank users were women over 18 years of age
- 174,618 households were served by food banks (9.8% of which were first time users)
- 42.8% of food bank users were on social assistance
- 27.3% of food bank users were on disability support
- 64.5% of food bank users were low-income, rental market tenants
- 19.2% of food banks ran out of nutritious food during the month
Across Ontario there are some 120 food banks that work together – sharing resources, compiling statistics, putting forward research and programs for lessening the demand on food banks themselves.
We are rapidly approaching that time when we as communities must begin some serious discussions as to how we will end hunger. It won’t just be about governments living up to their commitments, but how we handle employment, those on mental health, create more affordable housing (the #1 cause of food bank use), and how we engage citizens to tackle this ever-growing problem in our midst. And there will be risks involved. I am reminded of Helder Camara’s observation, that, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
Political labels aside, it is time we took up the challenge of asking why so many of our fellow citizens are hungry. The old days of stereotyping people on welfare are long gone; in their place stands the reality that significant numbers of people coming to food banks were working just a year ago.
Please help out your local food bank if you can. And let’s begin preparing ourselves for the significant conversations we as citizens we need to begin if we desire our communities to come back to health again.
Watch the two-minute video above if you want to learn details of this year’s food drive.