West Island organizations to hold Saturday food drive as high demand leaves shelves bare

·3 min read
Volunteers will be collecting food items in the parking lot of the YMCA in Pointe-Claire Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Submitted by Table de Quartier Sud de l'Ouest-de-L'Île - image credit)
Volunteers will be collecting food items in the parking lot of the YMCA in Pointe-Claire Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Submitted by Table de Quartier Sud de l'Ouest-de-L'Île - image credit)

Suzanne Scarrow, executive director of the West Island Mission, said her warehouse is usually overflowing with food this time of year.

But so far, her organization is struggling to keep up with the community's needs.

"Demand is increasing steadily still, since the beginning of the pandemic, and our shelves are bare," she said.

Scarrow said food banks are low on staple foods which are key to offering clients a well-rounded diet.

"Your essentials, your rice, your canned tomatoes, your canned meat, spaghetti sauce — those types of items — cereal. And we're at a point where we may have to purchase," she said.

She's not alone. Food banks in Montreal's West Island are feeling the pressure of skyrocketing grocery prices which has led to an increase in demand and a decrease in donations.

So West Island organizations are teaming up to host a large-scale, drive-through food drive with hopes of restocking supplies before the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Volunteers will be collecting food items in the parking lot of the YMCA in Pointe-Claire, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Donations will be split between the West Island Mission, On Rock Community Services and the West Island Assistance Fund — three non-profits which feed roughly 700 families in the area.

Food prices hike with inflation

Canada's inflation rate rose to a new 18-year high of 4.4 per cent in September, with higher prices for transportation, shelter and food contributing the most to the jump in the cost of living.

Prices for just about every type of food went up sharply, especially meat, which rose at an annual pace of 9.5 per cent. That's the fastest pace of increase in meat prices since 2015.

Chicken prices are up 10 per cent in the past year, while beef is up by more than 13. Pork is up by more than nine per cent, Statistics Canada says.

The only part of the grocery basket that's giving shoppers relief right now is fresh veggies, which were 3.2 per cent cheaper in the past year.

With those rising prices has come increased demand for emergency food relief, advocates in the West Island say.

2 community organizations behind food drive

Two community organizations, Table de Quartier Sud de l'Ouest-de-L'Île and the West Island YMCA, are hosting the weekend-long food drive.

Kassandra Craven-Fisher, head of food security for the Table de Quartier, said the increased grocery prices haven't just increased demand, but also decreased the amount of donations trickling in.

"Even though we might think the pandemic has gotten better, for a lot of people that's just not the case," she said.

Submitted by Table de Quartier Sud de l'Ouest-de-L'Île
Submitted by Table de Quartier Sud de l'Ouest-de-L'Île

Saturday's food drive will operate like a drive through, with volunteers helping to unload cars.

"People donating can even stay in their cars — they don't have to worry about any contact with COVID," Craven-Fisher said.

Craven-Fisher said another big issue for West Islanders is that there are hardly any grocery stories within a short walking or driving distance.

"Eighty five percent of the West Island is a food desert," she said.

"People need accessibility, they need to be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables. And it's not only a question of physical access, but it's also a question of economical access."

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