By Mike Anderson

With the start of the holiday season, the Georgina Community Food Pantry is ramping up to help a growing number of local families experiencing food insecurity.

But higher food costs coupled with a greater demand for its services means the Pantry has become more dependent on the local community for food and financial donations than ever before, says Cesar Caneo, the GCFP’s executive director.

“Our food costs have increased by about 62 per cent this year, compared to the same period in 2020, because we’re serving between 17 and 18 per cent more people than the previous year,” he said. “And food prices are much higher.”

According to Caneo, December is the busiest month of the year, and the Pantry must order twice the amount of food.

“We already saw in the first week of this month 25 more families, and this week and next week is going to be the busiest,” he said.

While community food drives, organized by residents, schools, realtors and firefighters, are making a significant impact, Caneo said the Pantry still needs to buy more food, so financial contributions are needed as well.

“We had about 15 food drives during the second half of November and the first half of December taking place in the community,” he said.

“It really helps us a lot. But we still have to buy food every week. And around this time, because of the volume, we have to buy much more food than other months.”

Pefferlaw Lions Club presents Cesar Caneo with $1000 cheque.

The higher costs of food, especially fresh food, is also challenging for the Pantry.

“With the food drives, we get donations of cans, pasta and rice, but the fresh food items we purchase every day have gone up, like ground beef, fruit and vegetables.”

Besides a holiday hamper, Caneo says the Pantry is also providing grocery gift cards to its clients this holiday season so they can enjoy a holiday dinner.

“We started that last week and will continue it until December 23,” he said.

“People who are single, or a couple, get $50, three or four people get $75, and a family of five or more gets a $100 gift card.”

The Pantry can provide gift cards because of a one-time $30,000 grant from York Region Community and Health Services, and a $8,000 contribution from Linda Wahrer, in her late husband’s honour.

Despite the spike in numbers, Caneo is optimistic every family’s needs will be met. But he acknowledges that it wouldn’t be possible without the support from Georgina residents.

“Without the support of the local community, it wouldn’t be possible for us, over the past two years, to sustain the people who the pandemic has impacted the most. The support of the community made that possible,” he said.

“So as we approach the end of another year and the holiday season, we just have to say a big thank you!”

The Georgina Community Food Pantry is open every Thursday, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m, and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. However, it won’t be open on Friday, Dec 24 (Christmas Eve). Instead, it will be open Thursday, Dec 23, morning and afternoon. The Pantry will be closed the following week and reopens in the New Year.

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