Sandy Singers

In 2014, Partners in Mission Food Bank will have been in service to the community for 30 years. When the Sisters of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph opened the doors in 1984 their intention was to operate the food bank until the financial crises of the mid-80s was over. Although there was some modest recovery, jobs and prosperity never returned and financial stability continues to be elusive, especially for those who used to be part of a strong middle class.
When I started with the food bank 20 years ago, I used to encounter questions about whether “these people” really deserved the help and “how many of them are ripping off the system”? The answers are the same as they were 20 years ago, yes they do… and hardly any.
No one wants to or likes to have to go to a food bank, and to be honest, even those of us who operate food banks don’t like that we have to be here at all. How is it possible that in Canada, one of the most prosperous economies in the world, we need to provide food banks to our citizens?
I am happy to say that I don’t encounter those derogatory lines of questioning much anymore but it is troubling when you realize why that might be. Sadly, I think that poverty as a concept has become an accepted part of our societal reality. Many of us now know someone or have been in the situation ourselves where money has been tight and we have faced the desperation of not being able to pay the bills and keep our families fed. Almost every day we hear about massive layoffs, underemployment and the outright lack of meaningful jobs with benefits and security. As much as we are informed about the plight of poverty and hear about the loss of opportunities for our youth in the working world, it has somehow become routine and accepted.
Most of the people we encounter every day are devastated that they are walking through our doors and feel a range of emotions from humiliation to depression and sometimes anger. And who can blame them? How do you manage that feeling of utter futility when the prospects for changing your life are so unattainable because poverty has eroded your self-worth and diminished your opportunities? The reality is that we are seeing more people on fixed incomes, seniors, and working people with full time employment who cannot provide for their families. Minimum wage is not a living wage, affordable housing is almost non-existent and those who suffer from emotional and mental health issues are still being marginalized and services to help them are being reduced.
As we continue to compromise the job market with an unquenchable thirst for cheap imported goods, we will unfortunately see more of our neighbours impoverished as a result. The technological revolution has brought us so much in terms of a “lifestyle,” but very little in a quality of life as good jobs are replaced by tenuous service sector employment.
Our commitment to provide nourishment to those marginalized in our city is unwavering. We distribute the food we collect with compassion and respect. A box of food might help someone through a difficult time, but it also shows that there is a community behind that box who cares about them and their family.
Over the last year through the generosity of this incredible community, we have helped over 6,500 individuals with emergency food relief. Additionally, we have donated 50,000 pounds of food to 25 meal-providing agencies and reclaimed 170,014 pounds of fresh foods and dry goods through various retail sources from inside and outside the city. The Inmate Garden partnership with Frontenac Institution produced a whopping 34,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for our hamper program. Once again, in total, about 1 million pounds of food will have passed through our facility to assist families and individuals in need. When the final numbers come in for 2013, we will have served 1.5% more people than we did last year and will reach a 25% increase in demand since the fall of 2008. Over the next few months we will start to hear the rumblings of upcoming federal and provincial elections and I urge everyone to look closely at the policies of each party and vote according to those who will do the most good for ALL of us.
As always, we cannot do this alone and rely on a dedicated army of volunteers who not only give of their time to build hampers and sort food, but also conduct a myriad of food drives and collections on our behalf. We are forever grateful and humbled by their generosity.
In closing, I would like to extend our best wishes and gratitude to this awesome community who have given so generously to our charity this year. Also, if you enjoy Christmas music don’t forget that “A Soul Survivors Christmas” fundraising CD is available at locations around the city. So from all of us here at Partners in Mission Food Bank, have a Merry Christmas and a very safe and Happy New Year.