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'The need is immeasurable': St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank usage doubles


The crisis is growing for area food banks.

Officials at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank report a 50 per cent jump in usage over the past three years.

“It’s just a difficult time for all of us. It can choke you up, it really can”, stated administrator Karen McDade.

She told CTV News London that staff and volunteers are overwhelmed by soaring demand.

Most of the newcomers are middle-class families struggling to make ends meet.

Volunteers work to prepare food hampers with available items at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank on May 10, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

“They have two to three children, if not more,” said McDade. “They’re a married couple and they just can’t make ends meet. They ask, 'Do I feed my children? Or do I pay my mortgage, my utility bills, my rent?'”

A visual example of the rise in need is noticeable along the back wall of the food bank. More than 250 crates, typically full of food, are empty.

“Those crates at the back are usually full. We don’t purchase boxes of food anymore. I purchase by the skid,” McDade confirmed.

Corporate donations from regional business newcomers Amazon and Maple Leaf Foods have helped, but McDade said the requests keep coming in.

St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank volunteers Jan Schleihauf and Jennie Carswell on May 10, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

Volunteers are feeling the pinch as they hurriedly prepare items for distribution.

“The need is immeasurable. It’s unbelievable,” shared Jan Schleihauf. “I count my blessings every day.”

Jennie Carswell, a volunteer for 12 years, is among those pleading for food and cash donations, “We need more help, more money, and more food.”

Thirteen-year-old Grayson Kelly shares the same thoughts.

13-year-old food bank volunteer Grayson Kelly on May 10, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

The homeschooled food bank volunteer believes a community awareness campaign is needed to combat the food crisis.

“When I was in school, it was never talked about, for sure,” said Kelly.

CTV News London requested actual numbers for a five-year comparison of usage at the St. Thomas Food Bank.

The results are:

  • 2019 — 9,056 (clients fed)
  • 2020 — 8,230
  • 2021 — (unavailable)
  • 2022 — 13,462
  • 2023 — 19,424
  • 2024 — (YTD) 8,062 Top Stories

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