Stocking up the bank
By Chad Ingram
A couple of weeks ago, I met with members of a local lake association for a story about a food drive they do each Thanksgiving, bringing food and money to the Minden Food Bank.
One member said she thought the food drive had been eye-opening for some of the association’s members who may not have realized the amount of poverty that exists in the county, or how many families, and children, in particular, are reliant on the food bank.
And that was striking to me. In that moment I realized that I’ve become desensitized to the fact that so many local families do rely so heavily on food banks and other agencies in order to get by. It’s become normalized.
I’ve been a year-round resident of Haliburton County for 11 years now and my job means that I’ve become more than familiar with the plight of many of its residents, the ongoing efforts of local non-profit social services agencies to fill gaps, and the ongoing efforts of municipal governments to grow the county’s seasonal economy so that more residents might live more prosperous lives.
The glittery sheen of summertime in Haliburton County is an illusion in a way, its seemingly prosperous bustle a mirage that is stripped away once Thanksgiving passes and winter sets in.
There are currently 225 families registered with the Minden Food Bank. That number will dip in the summertime with the hiring of people for seasonal positions, and then rise again at the end of the summer when those jobs disappear until the weather gets warm again.
As many as 40 per cent of families using the food bank at any time have members with jobs. The food bank’s manager says there’s been an increase in the numbers of so-called “working poor” in recent years, people with jobs but who turn to the food bank, typically in the last 10 or so days of the month, in order to get by.
Twenty-five per cent of children aged 17 or under in Haliburton County live in low-income households. Schools have reported that some kids from low-income households do not look forward to summer break, as they know it means they will eat less without the snack and lunch programs provided at school. The Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Poverty Reduction Roundtable has recommended the creation of a food charter and food action plan for Haliburton County.
These are things to think about as we approach the holidays, which can be as tough a time for some as they are merry for others. Those of us with more than we need should think about giving those having trouble making ends meet a leg up. Along with the food bank in Minden, which is still seeking unwrapped toys for its annual Christmas basket program, there are food banks in Haliburton, Kinmount and Wilberforce. There is Heat Bank Haliburton County, which helps financially struggling residents heat their homes through the winter. There is SIRCH’s Gifts from the Heart Campaign, which provides a variety of social services programming in the community. There is Food for Kids, which provides nutritious food for students at schools in the county. There is no shortage of places to make a donation that will have a profoundly positive, local, impact.