Meals financial institution “a blessing” for injured Winnipeg lady
Lanna Diamond, 50, never thought that one day she would rely on the blackboard where she volunteered. Together with thousands of other Manitobans, she uses a blackboard to make ends meet.
A new HungerCount report from Food Banks Canada suggests more people in the province are using food banks than last year.
The network of provincial associations, food banks and food authorities found that 63,791 people in Manitoba were using a food bank in March 2015, 3.4 percent more than in March 2014. That is more than the national average, which is up 1.3 percent.
Diamond’s addiction to Tafeln began after a serious car accident in 2011 that injured her neck and forced her to undergo surgery. A long recovery period led Diamond to quit her job as an addiction counselor and take disability benefits.
Soon after, she began using Winnipeg Harvest’s services to make ends meet. It was the same board that she had volunteered at for more than 20 years.
“It was quite a shock to me at first, but now that I’ve crossed the barrier to accept my situation … I feel a lot better,” she said.
Diamond’s story is repeated across the country; Individuals and families are turning to food banks because government support is not enough to cover living and food costs, the report said.
“Manitoba is not looking good,” said David Northcott, managing director of Winnipeg Harvest. “Second biggest jump since 2008. Number 1 was Alberta, but number 2 was Manitoba.”
Alberta was an outlier in the 2015 HungerCount report – food bank usage in that province rose 23.4 percent.
Looking at the general trend in Manitoba food bank usage, 57.6 percent more Manitoban food safety authorities are using food safety agencies than in 2008. Nearly 42 percent of Manitoba’s food bank users are children, the report said. Volunteers use plastic bags to pack food packages for Manitobans at Winnipeg Harvest. According to the latest HungerCount report, more people rely on blackboards in the province than in 2014. (Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba)
“When the board’s activity goes up or down, it is an immediate measure of the value of the economy and the development of family income, because it’s basically about family income,” Northcott said.
“If people have enough money, they won’t use the board; if they don’t, they will use the board.”
Reduce Manitoba’s dependence on food banks
Food Banks Canada makes four recommendations that they say will help reduce the need for blackboards:
- create a basic income to replace provincial welfare programs;
- increase the availability of affordable housing;
- Restore and improve employment and training opportunities for low-literacy Canadians; and
- Increase food security and reduce hunger in northern communities.
Northcott agrees with Food Banks Canada: A Basic Income for All Canadians is a solution that could reduce reliance on food banks.
“The numbers on the boards in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Canada tell Canadians we can’t repeat what we’ve been doing for 30 years. Now is the time to look at a basic income,” he said.
The 2015 HungerCount report used information from 45 boards, two meal programs, and seven organizations that serve boards and meals in Manitoba.
Chalkboard: more than free groceries
Winnipeg Harvest supplies Diamond with staple foods such as bread and vegetables every two weeks. She also volunteers about four times a month to give something back, she said.
“[Winnipeg Harvest] gave me the opportunity not to push my body or myself. It was wonderful, “said Diamond.
Winnipeg Harvest offers more than just food and personal toiletries, she said; it was “a blessing” to her during her recovery.
“There is so much support for those who need it – emotionally, mentally – just because there is such a strong sense of community here and people understand what others are going through.”
Winnipeg Harvest’s Most Wanted Food Donations:
- Canned fish and poultry (tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey)
- Canned fruit and vegetables (packed in their own juice)
- Canned stew, chilli, brown beans
- peanut butter
- Baby food (chicken, beef, vegetables or fruit, baby grains such as oatmeal, barley or rice, baby food with added iron)
- Whole wheat pasta
- Rice (brown, converted, or parboiled)
- Canned spaghetti sauce or canned tomatoes
- Grain (highly fibrous, not sugar-coated)
- Canned soup (lentils, peas or vegetables)