By Michelle Poirier

The Georgina Community Food Pantry is headed into its busiest season from October through December and is facing an increase in new clients and food costs.

“During the first half of 2021, we have seen more people, and we are spending more on food,” Cesar Caneo, Executive Director of Georgina Community Food Pantry, said.

“So far this year, based on the January to July period, we have assessed our food services have increased overall about 5 per cent.”

While the overall increase is 5 per cent, the increase in new clients receiving food from the Pantry for the first time is 18 to 20 per cent for the first half of the year, a much higher increase than usual, Caneo said.

He said after more than a year and a half of the pandemic, people have either lost their jobs or have seen their income reduced, which has brought a lot of new clients to the Pantry.

The Pantry’s food cost has also increased 64 per cent during the same period.

Heading into the holiday season, Caneo said many businesses, groups and schools have contacted them to run food drives.

“With Thanksgiving, it’s a celebration of the harvest and a time to share food with the people you care about. We are going to have our own Fall Thanksgiving food drive in Keswick this Friday, October 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Zehrs to collect food and donations,” he said.

The Pantry is focusing on supplying fresh, nutritious and healthy foods to their clients. Caneo said they are making an effort to purchase food high in fibre and low in salt and sugar. They are also only 10 per cent away from reaching their goal of every week having 40 per cent of the food provided be fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat, with the food being purchased locally at farms and grocery stores.

The Pantry will soon be launching a new mail-in campaign and will be sending out contribution requests for end-of-year donations. Caneo said their online donation process is much easier and will allow those donating to receive a tax receipt immediately.

In August, the Pantry, along with Community Living and Routes Connecting Communities, started a new community lunch program at The Link called the Good Food Collective.

According to the Routes website, the collaboration was started to provide ethnic foods with locally sourced ingredients and support residents in a new catering venture, where they will be able to learn planning, budgeting, and cooking skills.

The meals are $5.00 each and are offered every other Wednesday at The Link. To order a meal, you can call Routes at (905) 722-4616.

Caneo said it has been a success so far, and they are hoping to offer the community lunches every week very soon.

“It’s been a year with higher need, more people requiring food and higher costs for food. But at the same time, once again, the local community in Georgina is responding by increasing their donations and their support to us through food drives or donations online,” Caneo said.

“They make it possible to help those people who, in a way, cannot help themselves. So we are excited and very grateful for the support that we have received and will continue to receive.”

If you would like to support the Pantry, you can donate online at georginafoodpantry.com, or donate during their food drive Friday, October 8 at Zhers Keswick from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can drop off food donations to the Pantry every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. They ask you to call ahead, if possible, before dropping off your donation, (905) 596-0557.

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