**Toronto Star: Food drive sets no goal for fear it won't be

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Fri, 08 Oct 1999 17:45:57 -0400


Toronto Star   -   October 7, 1999

Food drive sets no goal  for fear it won't be met

Organizers expect donations to fall short again

By  Barbara Turnbull Toronto Star  Staff Reporter

Organizers are not setting a goal for this year's Thanksgiving food drive
because they don't think it will be met.

While the need for food has increased over the years -- last year 130,000 used
food banks in Greater Toronto -- donations have steadily decreased.

In fact, the last two fall drives each produced just over 450,000 kilograms -
barely enough for area food banks to limp along until the Christmas drive, said
Sue Cox, executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank.

``It's tough to imagine there being enough,'' she said. ``I remember many years
ago, when we used to get almost twice as much food in a food drive.''

If that amount were collected these days, people wouldn't go without, Cox said.
``As of right now, they do.''

During this year's drive, organizers are reminding the public of the growing
need for donations. About 200 agencies will benefit from the fall drive, which
began Tuesday and runs until Oct. 17.

``People can do something to say they care about their neighbours, whether it's
volunteering or giving food,'' Cox said.

A survey released last month commissioned by the Canadian Association of Food
Banks shows that the number of people who rely on food banks increased by 10
per cent since last year. About 130,000 people a month in Greater Toronto use
emergency food relief, 50,000 of them children, and their circumstances are
becoming more dire.

Of those using food banks in September, 1998, 19 per cent had no income and 4
per cent were homeless. For the same month this year, 28 per cent had no income
and 15 per cent were homeless, Cox noted.

Liberal MPP Gerard Kennedy, former head of the Daily Bread Food Bank, blames
the growing number of food bank users on cuts to welfare and other social
programs, as well as dramatically rising rents since rent controls ended this
year. More than 3,000 of his Parkdale-High Park constituents are facing rent
increases of 25 to 50 per cent, he said.

``What's happening is that people are paying the rent and the money is coming
out of their food budget,'' Cox said.

Kennedy said he believes there's still a stigma attached to food banks that
makes users - even temporary ones - feel shame, while others blame those users
for their own misfortune.

``It's still a struggle to put across who these people are,'' he said.

The public should be aware of the large number of children who rely on food
banks, Kennedy said. ``For young children, if they miss nutrition, even for a
brief period of time, some of that is irreversible for mental and physical
development.''

Though the last year has been difficult for everyone, it's much worse for
people without work, and those with children or family members with special
needs, Kennedy said. ``There's nothing more fundamental than the food the food
bank wants to provide.''

The public should also try to understand that nobody is happy the banks exist -
not those using them and not those volunteering or working there.

``It's a reluctant kind of thing, but . . . that said, it's vital,'' he said.
``We have no excuses in this country for anyone going hungry and we certainly
can't afford to run those kinds of risks.''

Items most needed include: powdered milk, baby formula, canned fish, peanut
butter, canned fruit and vegetables, stew, beans and pasta and sauce.
Volunteers are also needed to help sort the items.

Donations can be dropped off at any fire hall or Loblaws store. Cash donations
can also be mailed to The Daily Bread Food Bank, 530 Lake Shore Blvd. W.,
Toronto, M5V 1A5, or by calling (416) 203-0050.