Home Blog April 2020 Thanking Food Bank Volunteers for Helping to Keep Canadian Communities Fed

Thanking Food Bank Volunteers for Helping to Keep Canadian Communities Fed

Thanking Food Bank Volunteers for Helping to Keep Canadian Communities Fed
For National Volunteer Week 2020, we are more grateful than ever for the thousands of dedicated volunteers in food banks across the country, serving their communities during this critical time.
 
Volunteers have always been the backbone of the food bank network. Approximately 40 per cent of food banks nationally are entirely run by volunteers; that proportion is even higher in smaller and rural communities.
 
It’s a network that is comprised of grassroots, community led organizations that have emerged in response to the unique needs of their own communities. Historically, these needs have included the closing of a local factory, rapidly rising cost of rent in a particular region, or an environmental disaster such as a forest fire or flood that suddenly leaves thousands homeless.
 
These organizations have also had to manage the longer-term need that has emerged due to the growing gaps in our safety net, gaps that grew exponentially wider after the 2008 recession, with average incomes falling far behind the cost of living and that are being further exacerbated by COVID-19. With nearly 3 million employment insurance claims since the COVID-19 crisis began, and many worried about not being able to pay their rent before the cheques arrive, the frailties of this safety net came into bold, mainstream focus.
 
While so much of our regular life and our economies are on pause, this is not an option for food banks or for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who rely on our services.
 
Volunteers have proven to be a responsive, nimble, and sustaining force. Social and economic circumstances can change on a dime –government policy, and their mechanics to respond to those circumstances tend to move at a much slower pace.
 
Now, food banks are facing a potentially unprecedented level of demand, along with severe limits in food supply. Add to this a significant reduction in the available workforce due to the necessary social distancing precautions required during this time, the sector faces its biggest test yet.
 
To meet these challenges volunteers are adapting again. The need is two-fold: food banks can provide immediate, daily relief and can also be a central force in helping to pull communities together for sustainable long-term progress.
 
As younger volunteers are stepping up during a time in which older volunteers are at risk, the future roster is being established. Volunteers in some smaller communities now offer home deliveries, rather than having clients travel to the food bank. Within the food banks, volunteers work in two person shifts, others have set up Plexiglas barriers in intake rooms. They have stepped up to the challenge despite the odds, just another example of our caring nation.
 
The full economic impact and resulting scale of need are still unknown. Corporations, individuals, and governments are working collectively to help the network meet the growing need. Some promising developments may also help mitigate the demand, such as the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), along with boosts to other tax benefits. As many on the ground are well aware however, many may still fall through the cracks for various reasons.
 
Through all the potential glitches, rent will still need to be paid, and food will still need to be put on the table.
 
And as usual, those dedicated volunteers will be there to help, driven by the power and purpose of community.