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New survey finds one-third of food charities turn people away due to demand

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Local food charities are anticipating a busy year ahead as the demand for support continues to rise.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region is on track to be even busier than last year.

“We continue to see our highest need in food bank history of almost 40 years here in Waterloo Region,” Kim Wilhelm, the CEO of Food Bank of Waterloo Region said.

She said the high cost of living is driving more people to rely on their programs.

“We’re seeing more and more people who are struggling to put food on the table each and every day. They’re having to make impossible choices whether to buy food for themselves and their children, or to maybe fix a car bill that’s going to get them to and from their job,” Wilhelm said.

“Over 58,000 people accessed a food assistance program in Waterloo Region more than 450,000 times.”

A recent national survey from Second Harvest indicates that 36 per cent of food charities are having to turn people away because of high demand. The survey found non-profits are predicting an 18 per cent increase in demand this year, translating to more than one million people relying on food assistance for the first time.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region hasn’t had to turn people away.

“We work with a network of more than 120 community programs and agency partners,” Wilhelm explained.

“We’re in constant communication with our partners to ensure they have the amount of food that they need to serve the number of individuals.”

At Food4Kids Waterloo Region, a non-profit focused at feeding students during breaks from school, there is currently a waitlist.

“There’s 3,000 children in Waterloo Region that need our help and we’re currently serving 1,200 of them, so with that difference of 1,800 children we need to do whatever it takes involving the community and our supporters and other funders to ensure that we’re reaching those at-risk children and that we are providing them with the nutritious food that they deserve,” Faune Lang, the manager of fund development and community engagement at Food4Kids Waterloo region said.

“The demand is very high with the cost of living, cost of housing, just everything goes up and unfortunately these children suffer.”

Lang said Food4Kids is currently in 96 out of 151 schools in the region, adding there are likely more children in need that they don’t know about.

“We know that we still need to get to the rest of those schools to find those children,” she said.

Both organizations said monetary donations are greatly appreciated as they try to keep food on the table for everyone.

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