Food drive shortages spur creative meals

The post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas fall-off of food donations can create a challenge for any food bank and Julliette’s Place is no exception.

While this year the Daily Bread Food Bank raised 600,000 pounds of food and exceeded their goal by 100,000, financial donations only came in at $302,000, falling short of their goal of $500 000 dollars.

Food Bank Shortages
Julliette’s Place Women’s Advocate Ashley Lockyer stands in front of a near empty shelf in the shelter’s pantry. Lockyer has seen a noticeable decline in donations over the past few years.

As a result of all these factors, local organizations are finding creative ways to make up the shortfall while still serving healthy meals.

“We actually have a number of support agencies like public and private schools and daycare centres who will do a food drive for us,” said Margaret C. Haynes, executive director of Julliette’s Place, located near the Malvern Town Centre.

“And so we have that substitute for when the food drive is low.”

Since food donations consist of non-perishable goods, the meal management team at Julliette’s focuses much of their food budget on purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables.

By using a mixture of both for meals, the staff is able to keep costs low while still providing a variety of meals that incorporate multiple food groups and ingredients, Haynes says, adding that by incorporating a variety of other cheeses and vegetables into the familiar kid-favourite Kraft Dinner, clients are able to increase the taste and nutritional value but with a much lower cost.

With 25 per cent of the shelter’s clients being vegetarian, Haynes also emphasized the popularity of items like canned chickpeas, red beans and fish as important sources of protein.

Registered dietician Shannon Wong said various assistance programs could help alleviate the difficulty of ensuring nutrition meals with limited resources. She recommends food bank patrons “definitely use Canada’s Food Guide as much as they possibly can.”

Wong also said local seminars with dieticians and nurses to help people learn how to properly combine different grain-based protein products. However, Wong also emphasized people pay extra attention to canned items.

“You have to be careful because they’re usually packed with sodium,” she said.

While Wong acknowledged the existence of healthier non-perishable options, products like multi-grain pastas and lower sodium soups often cost more than their lower nutrition counterparts and were less likely to be donated.

With such a large shortage and the next food drive happening during the Christmas season the Daily Bread Food Bank is encouraging the public to continue donations in the coming weeks. Non-perishable items like peanut butter, baby formula, and lentils can still be dropped off at any Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws or fire hall.

For those who wish to donate directly to Julliette’s Place, appointments can be arranged by calling 416-203-0050.