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More Montrealers relying on food banks

New demographics depend on non-perishable donations

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The use of food banks in Montreal has increased by 32 per cent in the past four years, according to a Hunger Count survey released this month by Moisson Montréal, Canada’s largest food bank.

Moisson Montréal collects and distributes food aid to 211 organizations on the Island of Montreal, providing food for almost 150,000 people each month.

According to Hunger Count’s report, new demographic groups are turning to food banks to stave off hunger, such as the elderly, students, and those with jobs.

Dominique, age 45, was a Social Work student at the Université de Montréal until mounting debt forced him to withdraw. Now he uses the food bank almost every day.

“If you have nothing, you eat nothing. I can’t even afford to put milk in my coffee,” he said.

The growing demand for aid, combined with a shrinking donation pool, has begun to strain local food banks.

According to Fred Mehrabi, coordinator of Côte-des-Neiges food bank MultiCaf, “The amount of food we have received in donation has decreased by about 10 to 15 per cent.”

He continued, “Although Moisson Montréal is our main supplier, the food we receive from them is insufficient to complete our food baskets, [so] we have to find donations wherever we can.”

Dany Michaud, executive director of Moisson Montréal, explained how the organization is dealing with the strain.

“We have improved the efficiency of our operation in order to respond to this increase, to make more with less, to maximize the food we receive,” he said.

The situation faced by food aid organizations is not unique to Montreal. A similar report released by Food Banks Canada indicates a 26 per cent increase since 2008 in the need for food aid in Canada.

According to Marzena Gersho, director of communications and national programs for Food Banks Canada, “It takes support from everyone to really make an impact. The government at all levels, the public. We do need to address the short term solutions, but in terms of reducing hunger it is about that long-term impact.”

In regards to action on a federal level, Gersho said, “We propose policy recommendations to government that stress a number of things such as cost of housing, access to employment insurance, child tax benefits. We work with government at all levels to include policy that will really help to reduce hunger.”

Looking forward, there is hope among food banks that the holiday season will help sustain resources in the moths to come, but the hope is tentative.

Mehrabi said, “It is a time where everyone wants to give and to help out, we do our best campaign at this time but it’s a matter of sharing, and I’m afraid people might not have as much to share this year.”

“We have to do what we have to do. We will make adjustments. There is no option of refusing people who come to the food bank,” he added.

Moisson Montréal is holding its Christmas Food Drive until December 9, in which the organization hopes to provide 35,000 households with a Christmas meal.