By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
The Welland Food Drive is being held Saturday, Nov. 1. It will be Welland’s 22nd.
Sadly, it has become an annual event in our community. Sad, because we should not have to hold a community-wide food drive each year, along with so many others that take place in churches, schools and by various community groups.
I’ve taken part in and written about food drives over a long period of time, going right back to the first. I worked at our parish food bank for several years.
I did a lot of reading to gain better understanding about poverty issues including hunger and food insecurity. One of the best books I’ve read still is Our Neighbours’ Voices/ Will We Listen? It was a project by The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, published in 1998. I also listened to many speakers and took part in several public forums. I think I have a pretty good handle on this pervasive social issue.
Food Banks Canada recently released its 2013 annual report. I’ve excerpted these two paragraphs, they are the report’s words, not mine. They do a good job giving us the bottom line about what’s going on:
“Many people do not realize the extent of hunger’s reach in this country. Each month, close to 850,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks, and 36.4% of those helped are children and youth.
“Who is turning to food banks? There is no single, typical profile. The people helped include families with children, employed people whose wages are not sufficient to cover basic living essentials, individuals on social assistance, and Canadians living on a fixed income, including people with disabilities and seniors.”
According to Hungry for Health, a backgrounder by Niagara Region Public Health, 12,107 people were served at Niagara food banks in 2012. “This amount has grown by 38% since 2007. A total 36% of these individuals were children,” the backgrounder says.
One of the voices of experience when it comes to works of charity and social justice with folks on or beyond the margins is that of Patrick Rothwell. He’s a long-time member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Welland, based primarily at his parish, St. Mary’s, but well-travelled across the city.
I asked him to share thoughts about the local food drive, food drives in general what the future may hold. Here’s his response, those of others from the same background will follow in subsequent columns:
“Twenty years-plus and the reality is the drive is needed now more than ever. I remember stories from my parents recalling the difficult times in the Depression. They grew up in rural Ontario and everyone did their share to make sure their neighbours didn’t go without. Times have changed and many of us do not know our neighbours and most of us are too embarrassed to inquire about one another’s needs.
“Wellanders are a compassionate people who will respond if they see a need. Our annual food drive allows us to help one another in an anonymous yet generous gesture that is more fitting of today’s hectic lifestyle. But at some point, our society is going to have to try and find a better way to meet the needs of our fellow citizens.”
Read more about the Welland Food Drive at: www.wellandfooddrive.com
(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. A Morsel About will appear every now and then leading up to food drive day.)