Food bank struggles as Thanksgiving looms

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/10/03/food-bank-struggles-as-thanksgiving-looms

Empty boxes are sitting on shelves reserved for dry pasta at the Ottawa Food Bank warehouse, after a “disappointing” first phase of the Thanks for Giving drive.

“We had a tough weekend,” said executive director Peter Tilley.

“We’re down about 10 to 15% from where we’d like to be at this time of year.”

A major part of the annual drive involves greeting customers at grocery stores and handing out brown paper bags for them to fill with needed items, which are printed right on the bag.

But many student volunteers bailed on their shifts last weekend.

“Maybe there’s a cold or a flu going around, but the stores they didn’t show up (at) are some of the biggest and most important stores,” said Tilley.

“It hurts us.”

Generally, the students are great, Tilley said, calling the circumstances “bad luck.”

And he’s looking ahead.

With less than a week until turkey weekend, “we really need to get some food into this place to get it out into the community,” he said.

Roughly 43,000 Ottawans rely on the Food Bank each month — 37% of them are children.

Volunteers are badly needed for the final push on Oct. 8 and 9 at big locations such as the Real Canadian Superstore in Westboro and Loblaws at College Square.

There are two shifts, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and many Metro and Your Independent Grocers stores are also participating.

“We have the bags at the store, you just have to get them and hand them out,” said Tilley, adding the drive is “a great family activity.”

Needed items include peanut butter, jam, dry pasta and sauce, rice, whole grain cereal, canned fish/meats/stews, juice, healthy snacks, cooking oil, macaroni and cheese, baby formula, and diapers.

Household products and personal hygiene items are also appreciated.

Each day, 12 tonnes of food are sent from the warehouse, helping 140 different programs in Ottawa.

One of those is the Ottawa Mission, where things are looking up.

“We’ve been appealing for turkey donations from the community, and as usual, the response has been great,” said spokeswoman Shirley Roy.

“And I think we’ll even have a few extra for Christmas dinner.”

The Mission’s dinner takes place Mon. Oct. 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To help with the Food Bank drive this weekend, contact 613-745-7001 or volunteer@theottawafoodbank.ca

@ottawasunkroche

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