December 24, 2008

Let’s increase support for EWAG Food Share

As published in The Erin Advocate

In many ways, our lives are defined by the things we do out of habit. It struck me recently that it has been some time since I donated to the EWAG Food Share program. I used to give on a fairly regular basis, but with various distractions and changes in schedule, I got out of the habit.

Right now, more local people need support. I have started picking a few extra items when I am in the grocery store, and dropping them in the donation bin behind the checkout. I know that many people are already doing a lot for the community, but still more can get involved.

Donations of money are certainly valuable and welcome, but actually buying food and giving it forms a special bond, since the need for food is something we all have in common.

The cost of food is going up much faster than the rate of inflation. The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit reported in September that the weekly cost of providing healthy meals to a family of four had risen 11.5% in one year, to $149 per week.

"Making healthy food choices is essential for normal growth and development, and to prevent disease,” said WDG Public Health Dietitian, Jane Bellman. “The survey results reinforce the need to assess the adequacy of social assistance in the province as well as increase the support of local initiatives to assist individuals and groups with limited incomes."

Illness or family break-up can put people in need of help. Families where both parents work at low-paying jobs are also vulnerable to financial emergencies, especially if they have to maintain a vehicle. A report to the Canadian senate this fall on rural poverty identified lack of public transportation as huge problem, with no easy solutions.

With the current turmoil in the economy, even more people are in distress. During one week recently, EWAG took on three new clients due to layoffs, said Food Share Coordinator Kelly Stockdale.

“The community has been very generous,” she said. Most of the food is donated through schools, churches, service clubs and businesses. Foodland in Hillsburgh and ValuMart in Erin village provide help, including bins for individual donations. You can also drop non-perishable food off at the EWAG offices: Erin - 45 Main Street, or Rockwood - 106 Church Street.

The major food collections are at Thanksgiving and Christmas, creating a stock that has to last through much of next year. Regular donations will help replenish the supply, to help it go further. Overall, in 2007, EWAG provided 3,928 bags of groceries to 291 families.

Erin Firefighters recently held a barbecue, gathering donations of food, money and toys. That has helped EWAG provide Christmas packages to about 55 families.

Deciding to seek help from a food bank can be very difficult, and people often put it off until their situation becomes serious, said Kelly.

“We treat everyone with respect, and provide confidentiality,” she said. If you are in need of food, call Kelly at 519-833-9696, ext. 222.

People need to apply, showing evidence of their current income and expenses. Once approved, they can get some groceries once a month, with a private appointment at the food distribution site.

If you are in a position to donate bulk supplies, call Kelly to find out what is particularly needed, and what they can handle.
Sometimes, it seems that there are so many charities out there and so many needs that it can be overwhelming. Perhaps the best strategy is to pick a few positive, concrete actions, then actually do them.

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