My Experience Joining the Burlington Food Bank
First Published in Aldershot Press Winter Edition
It started with people caring for people. It started in Aldershot. A few small church-based groups in 1991 met, at what is now the Enterprise Rent-A-Car at King Road and Plains Road East, to discuss the growing issues of food insecurity in Burlington. I’m sure that the problem they were facing wasn’t a new one and that they weren’t the first people in Burlington to try to collectively help feed their neighbours. However, this effort wasn’t just about a stopgap; those who gathered wanted to change the way things were done. They wanted to have a lasting impact. It started with local people who were moved to help feed their neighbours. Moved to make a difference. Recently, I have become a part of that legacy.
Since joining the Burlington Food Bank, I’ve been viewing the hunger statistics from our partners at Food Banks Canada and Feed Ontario with an apprehension for what the future might bring. The statistics from our partners tell us that:
- Food banks in Ontario have received 4,353,880 visits from clients. Which is a 42% increase from 2019.
- 1 in 3 food bank clients were first time visitors. This is a 64% increase from 2019.
- 1 in 7 Canadians who use a food bank are currently employed.
Our own Burlington Food Bank statistics show that:
- Since March 2019 the Burlington Food Bank has seen an 81% increase in requests for assistance.
- In 2021 34% of those the Burlington Food Bank assisted were children.
These statistics are concerning for so many. They point to the fact that Ontario’s social safety nets are not enough to support what is needed for a basic standard of living. They show the growing need for food banks across Canada is all too real. But as I have also seen during my short time at the Burlington Food Bank, so is the legacy of people caring for people.
Recently, I was privileged to attend the Gift of Giving Back, the biggest food drive of its kind in Canada. The turnout was spectacular and the students who participated really gave 100%. At the end of the event, there were a number of speeches thanking us all for taking part, followed by introductions of all the major contributors and recipients of the food collected. They were good speeches, all full of messages of hope. However, it is the following that Karen Roche, Fire Chief for the City of Burlington, said that will stick with me for a long time to come: “The best thing about Burlington is its community.”
It’s true. Despite the waves of bleak news that we are being subjected to, I find myself brimming with hope. Not because of additional counter-acting statistics, but because of the stories of
a community that cares. Like the story of more than 80 Burlington sports teams raising over 150,000 lbs of food organized at MM Robinson High School through the Gift of Giving Back. The story of two young children giving their birthday celebrations to collect 131 lbs of food for their hungry neighbours. Or the story of the students at Assumption Catholic Secondary School collecting more than 12,000 lbs, because they know that some of the people that use the Food Bank are part of their school community.
It’s these stories that constantly remind me that everything’s not lost. Despite the circumstances we see, there are factors in the generosity of our Burlington community that can’t be measured. Facts and figures don’t take into account the good hearts of those who offer what they can to help others. Numbers don’t show the joy of those who give and those who receive. Finally, statistics don’t reflect that when the Burlington Food Bank receives a request for help, it’s the Burlington community that helps us rise to the challenge.