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Flex your muscles, feed the people

In this edition of Urban Cowboy, Owen Roberts finds volunteers are in short supply at the Guelph Food Bank
2018-10-12 Urban Cowboy Debbie Lascelles
Debbie Lascelles, associate director of the Guelph Food Bank, stocks shelves in the facility's self-help shopping area, a new feature at the food bank. Photo courtesy of Owen Roberts

Benevolence is very much alive in well in Guelph, which has historically been one of Canada’s most charitable communities. But like everywhere, volunteerism is getting harder to come by. Of the two resources – money and time – people are more inclined to give money.

That’s the situation facing the Guelph Food Bank. Around Thanksgiving, its needs are high on peoples’ radar. But that falls off once the holiday ends – even though the food drive continues, and the needs are high.

Currently, the food bank is servicing 60-80 families a day. Through the fall, the peak has been over 90 families a day.

More than 35 per cent of the users are children.

Last year, the food bank distributed over 1.6 million lbs of food. And even though its fall food drive (which ends Sunday) has yet to meet expectations, it’s likely that this year’s total support from the community will equal or pass last year’s total.

Thankfully, that’s a lot of food. But it comes with a need: for it to be handled as efficiently as possible, it needs a strong volunteer base.

And right now, that’s lacking.

“With the minimal staff we have, we very much rely on the thousands of hours volunteers put in each year,” says Pauline Cripps, the food bank’s marketing and communications coordinator. In fact, volunteers give an estimated 50,000 hours of their time every year.

And while the food bank always needs food, Cripps describes volunteers as one of its biggest immediate needs.

“We are actively seeking committed volunteers who want to be involved in our organization on a deep and meaningful level,” she says. “We would love to see more passionate individuals join our team.”

If the food bank’s immediate goal of 90,000 lbs of food isn’t met, Cripps says the fall food drive will stay active until there’s enough stock to carry it through Christmas.

Some of the food bank’s most needed items include canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned meats (other than tuna), cereal, pasta sauce, Kraft Dinner, baby formula, baby diapers (sizes 3 and up) and pull-ups, nuts, and meal helpers such as boxed potatoes.

To learn how to volunteer, check Volunteers and Support on the food bank website, or call the food bank at 519-767-1380.