Glen Pearson speaks at the London Food Bank. Photo by Rebecca Chouinard.Glen Pearson speaks at the London Food Bank. Photo by Rebecca Chouinard.

'The food bank isn’t the answer:' Overwhelmed London charity seeks donations, calls for policy change

As the London Food Bank kicks off the 36th annual Spring Food Drive, Co-Directors Glen Pearson and Jane Roy are calling on civic leaders to start making real changes that will help solve the city's food insecurity problem.

More and more community members have been coming to the food bank for assistance lately, according to its leaders.

Roy said there was a 30 per cent increase in demand from 2021 to 2022. The trend has continued with the first three months of 2023, bringing nearly a 41 per cent jump compared to the first three months of 2022.

March 2023 has been the food bank’s busiest month to date, with the charity expecting to serve over 5,000 families for the first time in its 36 years.

The London Food Bank is grateful for the community’s generosity throughout this unprecedented time, but now, leaders from the non-profit organization have declared that enough is enough.

Pearson expressed his frustration over the lack of action being taken by decision makers to address the growing issue of food insecurity in the area.

“In the absence of public policy, London showed up. This food bank has done really well during that particular time thanks to Londoners. On the other hand, we can't do it much longer at this level. It's too big. More and more people are falling through and coming to us everyday," said Pearson. "The answer to food insecurity is not charity. The answer to food insecurity is security."

"We're institutional now, and we were never meant to be institutional," added Roy. "The food bank isn't the answer."

Pearson called directly on the mayor, city council, and other administrative workers to come forward the same way they did over London’s homelessness problem. He says factors like the cost of rent, food prices, unemployment, and unlivable wages have led many Londoners to go hungry. 

On top of these issues, Pearson said government support payments have not increased along with inflation, making it difficult for some of society’s more vulnerable people to pay rent, let alone afford food. 

Another major factor in food insecurity is political partisanship, according to Pearson, as folks from different parties vie for their own solutions and refuse to come together for a common goal. With London having three new democratic party MPP's, a conservative provincial government, and liberal feds, Pearson believes the odds of getting leaders to join forces are next to none.

"It’s ridiculous when we keep coming back to communities and saying, 'You guys are awesome as a community, keep giving!' Really, as policymakers, it's your job. It's why you've been elected, to solve these bigger problems," Pearson asserted.

While many people in the community are frustrated by the current economic and political climate, there are a few members of the next generation who might offer a shred of hope through their altruistic nature.

A group of eight girls who call themselves the “Goodness Angels” are promoting the Spring Food Drive by heading door to door and encouraging residents to make a donation.

Melike Akin, Leyla Cetintas, and Hira Canli are three of the friends involved with the project. Both Akin’s and Cetintas’ families moved to Canada from Turkey several years ago, and the London Food Bank helped them throughout their transition. Now, they are finding a way to give back.

“We want to show to people that you can do good without asking for anything in return,” Akin said.

The Goodness Angels gear make the first donation to the London Food Bank's Spring Food Drive. Photo by Rebecca Chouinard. The Goodness Angels gear make the first donation to the London Food Bank's Spring Food Drive. Photo by Rebecca Chouinard.

So far, Goodness Angels have visited over 1,250 homes and collected around 2,000 pounds of food.

At the launch of the Spring Food Drive, the food bank emphasized that a public as generous as London’s should not be taken for granted. However, those who are able to make a donation to the food bank are still encouraged to participate.

The campaign will run from March 31 - April 10. Donations can be made at most local grocery stores, online, or by visiting the London Food Bank to drop items off directly.

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