Christmas is coming fast and Newark Neighbours is hoping to spread a little comfort and joy to the families it helps, said Cindy Grant, the agency’s director.
Grant said that Newark Neighbours will be providing Christmas hampers filled with all the supplies needed for holiday meals to 100 families starting Dec. 20, but help is needed to get them filled.
“It’s a bit of a moving target,” Grant said. “We’re looking for juices – cranberry and apple – snacking crackers and coffee.”
The Christmas campaign is one of three staged by the agency over the course of a year – the others are at Easter and Thanksgiving – and it comes at a time when the agency’s food bank is helping more and more people than ever.
“We’ve had a large influx of new people in the past two weeks,” Grant said. “As of (Nov. 30), we are helping 131 households.”
Of that number, 37 are families with 78 children under the age of 17. Those numbers are up from 119 families and 77 children just over a month ago.
But help is on the way. As a member agency of Food Niagara, Newark Neighbours will be one of the beneficiaries of Bell Media’s Niagara group of radio stations’ Great Holiday Food Drive.
It also has been getting assistance from across town, including NOTL Hydro, which will be collecting donations of food and toys for the agency during Saturday’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Christmas Parade.
“There are nearly 40 groups and organizations around town who are currently collecting for us,” Grant said.
The increasing numbers turning to the agency for help are indicative of a trend across Canada.
In a report released Nov. 26 by Feed Ontario, it was noted that 800,822 adults and children accessed a food bank in Ontario between April 1, 2022 and March 31 of this year, a 38 per cent increase over the previous year.
“Ontarians are struggling to get ahead,” said Carolyn Stewart, Feed Ontario’s chief executive officer. “While we are seeing low unemployment rates across the province, working Ontarians are having trouble earning enough income to afford today’s cost of living.”
The report also noted that social supports such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program are not enough.
Twenty-six per cent of food bank clients rely on Ontario Works while 28 per cent rely on the program. Combined, those numbers represent a 17 per cent increase over last year.
Grant said NOTL is no different.
“We’re seeing single moms, working families, people who just can’t get by (without help),” Grant said.
Inflation is a factor that Grant said is fuelling the increase in demand.
“Prices on our groceries are going up, just like everywhere else.”
Newark Neighbours food bank operates Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1534 Niagara Stone Rd.. in Virgil from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The food bank will be closed for the holidays beginning Dec. 20, reopening on Jan. 2.