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COLUMN: Fight against food insecurity requires a community effort

The Sharing Place needs our help year round to meet growing need

This space is usually reserved for shining a light on restaurants and cafés, highlighting the best the area has to offer.

Ultimately, though, it’s about food, and dining out can be out of reach for many in the community. Even dining in with a full, healthy meal can be challenging.

So, we’re fortunate to have an organization like the Sharing Place Food Centre, even though it’s unfortunate we need it.

The Sharing Place has evolved greatly over the years. Realizing that, officials decided to drop “bank” from the name and replace it with “centre.”

Seems like a small change, but it was meaningful. It was a simple but effective way to chip away at the stigma associated with accessing this vital service, but it’s also reflective of the ever-broadening mandate of organizations like the Sharing Place.

People don’t just line up for a can of soup and some KD. At the Sharing Place, much effort goes into ensuring visitors receive a variety of goods, including fresh produce thanks to a food recovery program that sees surplus from farms and grocery stores land in the hands of some of the most vulnerable in the area.

The services extend beyond the walls of the Dufferin Street facility.

The Meals-4-Change program has volunteers preparing dishes in local kitchens to be distributed to members.

School Fuel is just as it sounds — fuelling kids to get through a day of learning without worrying about going hungry.

Then, there’s advocacy, and the Sharing Place has no better advocate than Chris Peacock.

I met the Sharing Place executive director in 2018, not long after he assumed that role. I was covering the annual Mac and Cheese Luncheon at Casino Rama, a major fundraiser for the organization.

Mac and cheese is seen as a staple for many, particularly at food banks, hence the theme of the event. But this was no ordinary mac and cheese. It was made by professional chefs who put a gourmet spin on the humble comfort food.

Guests paid handsomely to eat it, too — $100 per ticket for a three-course lunch.

Dressed in their best, their forks clanged as Peacock stood on stage and served up a side of reality. He cited startling stats about food insecurity in Simcoe County.

That was in 2018, and the problem has only worsened, punctuated by the pandemic.

In its 2020 Impact Report, the Sharing Place noted 1,100 people accessed the food bank each month that year and that 32 per cent of its members were children.

The good news in 2020 was that 213,000 pounds of fresh food was secured as part of the food recovery program.

Even that is a baby step, however, in the big picture. Peacock knows that. It’s why he’s always ready to talk about the issue of food insecurity, soaring food costs, insufficient wages and how all of those factors combine to make the perfect storm.

It won’t get easier when the pandemic ends. In fact, the Sharing Place is bracing for an increasing, ongoing demand for its services.

That’s where you come in. That’s where we, as a community, come in.

There are many ways we can help the Sharing Place help its members. It can be by donating our time, food and money — especially money. It allows the Sharing Place to acquire exactly what it needs.

There’s always a big push for donations around the holidays, but as Peacock has pointed out, “food insecurity is a 365-day-a-year problem and we need to address it 365 days a year.”

Let’s help address it. Check out the Sharing Place website to find out how you can do your part.

Nathan Taylor’s local food and drink column appears every other Saturday.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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