The meeting of uncontrolled forces of a pandemic, combined with economic uncertainty, is placing a hardship on many people. For some, it is difficult to provide for the most basic needs like shelter and food.
Local food banks help people who face this insecurity, whether it is a family or an individual. During the pandemic, local food banks remain open. On average, in West Northumberland, they serve more than 600 households every month. But as the economic realities of the pandemic settle in, those numbers are expected to rise.
Behind the scenes is Food4All. This story is about this county-wide supplier and what it is doing to ensure everyone is being fed.
Food4All is a centralized warehousing operation to assist food banks and meal programs across Northumberland. It is run by the county government. It supplied 14 food banks and non-profits in 2019, along with 40 local school nutrition programs.
Rob O’Neill, the county’s Food Security Services Manager, is the person behind Food4All. But he is not alone. Nearly 300 volunteers put in thousands of hours of help to ensure food and other necessary items are available to those in need.
Like so many of us, getting groceries is not easy. Going into stores, only to see empty shelves, is concerning, leaving us to wonder if there will be enough. For Food4All, the same concerns arise. It tries to keep sufficient stock to stretch over three months. But, there is always a worry.
Part of the strength of Food4All is its relationships it has with suppliers and others in order to source what is needed. A good example recently was the need for bread. O’Neill was able to reach out to find a bakery willing to provide fresh bread. This has made a huge difference.
There is also the ability to store items. With its warehouse, Food4All can receive large donations. It can store and organize items to meet the demands of each food bank. This way, food banks are not competing with each other.
While things seem stable right now and supplies are flowing, there is always an unease about the future. Already a small surge in foodbank use has taken place. And, there are worries it could get worse.
Luckily, people are generous. Northumberland Hills Hospital staff came through with a $2,600 donation, along with a number of other local businesses. Grocery store chains are making donations to national and provincial organizations like Food Banks Canada and Feed Ontario.
Since Food4All is a member of these larger groups, it benefits from those gifts.
Still, the demand is there. In a normal year, Food4All would distribute 1.4 million pounds of product. That could easily go up. So Rob continues to prepare, organize and search for what is needed to be certain those on the frontline are able to guarantee there are no empty bellies in Northumberland.
If you are interested in helping out call Food4All or go to the Northumberland County website or Google Food4All donate and follow the links. Or you can go online or call any one of the food banks or non-profits nearest you.