The number of people receiving support from The Sharing Place Food Centre is at its highest in at least five years.
Statistics from the Orillia organization show a troubling trend. There were 1,004 visits in January. In September, there were 1,445. August saw the most visits so far this year, with 1,474.
“It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,” said Sharing Place executive director Chris Peacock.
Some might be surprised to see those numbers, he said, especially due to “a perception because of how well the economy is doing.”
However, wealthier Canadians are the ones who tend to benefit most from a strong economy, he noted.
“That success doesn’t necessarily apply to the working poor.”
There are multiple contributing factors, but Peacock said it doesn’t help that Ontario’s minimum wage is $14 per hour and the living wage in Simcoe County is $18 per hour.
Over the past couple of months, The Sharing Place has seen more than 40 people a day come in for food. Speaking with visitors, officials have learned the increasing cost of food and a “very inconsistent job market” have contributed to their troubles, Peacock said.
He is also aware that the centre’s food-recovery program, which allows it to provide more healthy items, and its new facility might be factors in the increased numbers.
The new building on Dufferin Street is “much more dignified and some people feel more comfortable coming in.”
Regardless, The Sharing Place is feeling the pressure.
“Our usage has increased more than our donations have increased,” Peacock said.
Individuals who live in families are among the most frequent users of the organization’s services. They accounted for 551 visits in January and 848 in August.
There have also been hundreds of kids relying on The Sharing Place — 429 in May, 475 in August and 481 in September.
Growing fears of another recession also have Peacock concerned, as that would likely lead to fewer donations and greater demand.
“That’s something we’re mindful of,” he said. “I want to make sure that we’re financially sound and ready to respond to the demand.”
That’s why, when it comes to donations, “money is king.”
While donations of food are appreciated, financial contributions allow The Sharing Place to purchase what it needs and provide its various services, including an educational cooking program, garden club, and snacks for students.
“That’s when you really connect with people,” Peacock said. “That’s when you can tell you’re making a more long-term impact.”
The Sharing Place has begun focusing on its holiday hamper program, which provides enough food for a proper dinner around Christmas. Last year, 470 people registered for hampers.
“It provides that holiday dinner that they can be proud about. We just hope this meal can provide that little cushion,” Peacock said.
The organization also provides a little extra to clients around Thanksgiving, which, this year, is on Oct. 14.
The Sharing Place encourages people to host “healthy holiday food drives” in the community. Those interested should contact the centre for more information, including a list of needed items.
To learn more about how to help, including donating or volunteering, call 705-327-4273 or visit sharingplaceorillia.org.
Most needed items
- Pasta sauce
- Canned peas and corn
- Peanut butter
- Canned meat and fish
- Whole-grain, sugar-free cereal
- Canned tomatoes
- Instant and ground coffee
- Toilet paper, tampons and pads
- Diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6)
- Financial donations so the centre can purchase fresh food