Expanding MV food bank anticipates one of its largest turnouts for the holidays

Sarah Crookall
Staff Reporter

A small group of Madawaska Valley residents are busy packaging boxes to feed about 90 families over the holidays.
Over the year-and-a-half-long pandemic, use of the Madawaska Valley Food Bank has more than doubled.

“Every food bank it seems like we’re getting more and more new families,” says Patricia Whitfield, past president of the Madawaska Valley Food Bank. “We were about 40 families and now we’re up to 91.”

At 8:30 a.m. on two Tuesdays each month, the food bank serves about 200 individuals from the small garage at 8 Martin St. Prepackaged boxes have been delivered to residents’ vehicles since the pandemic began.

Pasta, soup, fresh vegetables, and meat are some of the perishable and non-perishable items carefully placed in cardboard. A single person typically receives about 15 items.

The food bank serves the 756, 758, and 637 telephone exchanges including: Barry’s Bay, Whitney, Combermere, Madawaska, Wilno, and Palmer Rapids. The organization is funded by the federal Local Food Infrastructure Fund and the provincial Social Services Relief Fund.

Many of those funds are dedicated to provide COVID-19 emergency relief.
“Some of the extended family that was living in cities and had employment in other places have come back home, and they’ve come back to their families because they’ve either lost their jobs or it’s COVID-19-related,” says Whitfield. “It seems like there’s a lot of coming back home.”

Whitfield says that before the pandemic people were nervous to visit the food bank. Now, the need is so great that the service is expanding. Some people have lost their jobs and are waiting for EI and others are on low-income pensions.
That trend is reflected nationally.

In March of 2021, 1.3 million people used a food bank according to Food Banks Canada. That’s 20 per cent above 2019’s numbers.

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