“It Snowed”: Montreal meals banks and different charities are struggling to satisfy demand
A grocery bank in Montreal’s west end is likely moving to a nearby hockey arena to safely pack 160 baskets of groceries a day, now that demand is up 2,000 percent.
The Depot Community Food Center in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is far from the only nonprofit that has seen an alarming increase in the number of people looking for food. The economic standstill has left thousands of cabinets and fridges empty.
“A lot of the stories we hear relate to job loss or income loss or income decrease,” said Daniel Rotman, the depot’s director.
“There are also people who mention that they have to stay at home with their children and cannot work.”
Used to accepting around 110 new applicants per month, the depot sees so many every day, and many of these applicants are seeking help for the first time. The organization burned nearly half of its annual food budget in a single month.
The depot is bringing staff from other nonprofits in the neighborhood to help as organizers plan to build a new sorting center in the Doug Harvey Arena where workers can keep a safe distance while they prepare food baskets that will last a long time in the recipient Month.
“Our current space doesn’t allow us to practice social distancing,” Rotman said.
The organization is giving away nearly 50,000 kilograms of groceries this month alone, and May could get even busier, he said.
Multicaf, a community cafeteria in Côte-des-Neiges, relies heavily on volunteers to prepare meals for nearly 7,000 people each week. That is 6,000 more than usual. (Simon Nakonechny / CBC)
Workers from Côte-des-Neiges-NDG and Côte Saint-Luc deliver the food baskets so that customers can avoid going out. More than 50 percent of the depot’s customers have health problems, Rotman said.
“We offer healthy food and try to feed people with nutritious food,” he said. “So if you get sick, you can be strong enough to fight the virus.”
Centraide is raising money for the cause
The federal government has allocated $ 350 million to frontline groups like the Depot, Rotman said, and private donors have also helped.
Centraide has received approximately 490 requests for assistance from Montreal nonprofits and has given $ 3.8 million to 309 community groups to date.
Centraide, which is raising money to support a network of local agencies, is in full swing and has so far raised more than $ 7.5 million to prepare for the anticipated economic impact of the pandemic.
But the strain is still felt across the city as nonprofits struggle to keep up with the influx of new customers.
Multicaf, a community cafeteria in Côte-des-Neiges, relies heavily on volunteers to prepare meals for nearly 7,000 people a week. According to General Manager Jean-Sébastien Patrice, that’s an average of 1,000.
“We just want to make sure everyone in the district has what they need,” he said.
Multicaf’s general manager, Jean-Sébastien Patrice, holds up a prepared meal that the agency prepares for those in need. (Simon Nakonechny / CBC)
Some district organizations even completely swapped their mandates during the pandemic. The Loyola Youth Center in western NDG usually serves as a busy after-school program and day camp to run sports teams and other activities.
Co-director Christine Richardson said the youth center has now switched to running health checks on families at risk and helping those in need.
She said they donated computers to children to help them keep up with their online studies and to help new immigrants who have difficulty in French or English fill out government forms for assistance.
The organization has also distributed grocery store gift cards to around 100 families in need.
“It threw a snowball,” said Richardson. “It started with, ‘We can get you a computer. We can get you a gift card.’ Eventually we found that the needs were similar everywhere and fairly widespread. “
In the municipality of Verdun, the Réseau d’entraide de Verdun has made people wait around the block to wait for a chance to receive fresh vegetables and non-perishable goods from volunteers wearing homemade masks.
Le Réseau d’entraide volunteers wear diving masks as they prepare food on Monday while a long line of people waited for service. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)
Moisson Montréal increases production by 30%
Sam Watts, CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission, told CBC that there has been no significant increase in homelessness, but the demand for food services has risen sharply. He encourages people to donate or volunteer if they can.
Moisson Montréal, which last year supplied around 250 grocery banks in the Montreal area with 15 million kilograms of food, has increased its supply by 30 percent since April 6 – and provides these agencies with up to 1,300 kilograms every week.
Eating the extra food is optional and the majority are taking it, the organization’s executive director Richard Daneau told CBC News on Wednesday.
Between government support and donations from the agri-food sector, Daneau said it was possible to increase Moisson Montréal’s offerings.
Daneau said his agency will reassess the situation next month and adjust it if necessary, but if Moisson Montréal had to maintain this pace for a year it would add up to an additional $ 25 million in groceries.
Richard Daneau, manager of the city’s central food collection depot, Moisson Montréal, says the organization has increased its offerings by 30 percent. (CBC)
As daunting as it sounds, the community was there to help, he said.
And volunteers tell CBC that using their newfound downtime to help organizations has been a rewarding experience.
Restaurant worker Antoine Gagnon, who volunteers at Multicaf, said, “I learn new things – do something, help people. It’s perfect.”
Côte-des-Neiges – NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery strapped on a mask and offered her hands along with the additional $ 200,000 her council distributed to 15 frontline organizations this week.
“I have to say, it is very good for your sanity when you feel like you are actually doing something productive,” she said, encouraging others to join the effort.