By: Michelle Poirier

Residents laid-off as a result of the pandemic are beginning to show up at the local food bank, according to Catherine Cook, Executive Director of Georgina Community Food Pantry.

“We serviced more than the usual number of clients,” said Ms. Cook, who opened the food pantry last Thursday evening and Friday morning.

“Typically, we get about three new households, but 12 of them were new last week.”

Ms. Cook says she has also been taking calls from people, anxious about their situations, who have never used a food bank.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of people who are affected economically by this pandemic, and they’re going to be very much concerned about the next while,” she said.

The pandemic has also forced the panty to change the way it distributes food.

With the Link in Sutton closed to the public, the pantry is providing food to clients outside its doors, three grocery bags per household.

Clients are separated by pylons placed 2 metres apart, which accommodates about four households. The rest wait in their cars until they are called to join the line-up.

“We maintain the social distance that is required and get people in and out as quickly as possible. So they just come to the doorway, register, then get their food, and then they’re off,” she said.

“Right now, we have to pre-package the food. We don’t have the luxury of giving people the food of their choice.”

But Ms. Cook says that the grocery bags are filled with things like fresh produce, soup, peanut butter, cereal, pasta, beans, milk and eggs.

“We hope to sustain that, but we go day-to-day because we never know what restrictions are going to be put in place by either the federal, provincial or local government. Things might change,” she said.

Catherine Cook

While the food pantry has enough supplies for now, Ms. Cook says if the pandemic lasts for months, it would impact donations and the pantry’s Easter food drive, which accounts for a large share of the year’s food supplies.

If the food pantry is forced to close, she hopes that family, friends and neighbours will be able to offer food to those in need.

“Their networks will have to come together and help them through it, and hopefully it won’t be for too long,” she said.

“Typically, people come once a month, and they get about four to five days of food. So if they can find a way to bridge that gap, and we can arrest the virus quickly, then people might not miss out on much.”

The food pantry is also putting together an information package for their clients, so they are aware of the support programs offered by various levels of government.

“Hopefully, the government will come through to make life a bit easier for the time being,” she said. “A lot of people are not getting enough money for a living wage. So their finances are already stressed.”

Georgina Community Food Pantry is open Thursday from 5 p.m to 8 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Check georginafoodpantry.com for any changes affecting upcoming weeks.

The food pantry is always accepting donations. If you would like to donate food items, you can do so through local grocery stores; Zehrs, Food Basics, FreshCo, Sobeys and No Frills.

You can also make a cash donation through the food pantry’s PayPal account.

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