By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Neighbour to Neighbour Centre representatives say numbers have been low at their new satellite food bank in upper Stoney Creek, but they’re not overly concerned about the slow start.
Food services manager Mark Raymond said about 10 families have visited the food bank at Heritage Green Baptist Church on Paramount Drive since it opened on June 6.
“We know that the need is there,” he said. “What we also know from our experience is that it takes people, and particularly people who are facing the kinds of barriers that are associated with poverty, a long time to get comfortable with a new service. We just want to be here and be positioned, so as to appear welcoming and I expect that people will adopt the service in time.”
The church approached Neighbour to Neighbour about setting up a satellite food bank late last year after some of the parishioners expressed a need for food and inquired about where to get it.
Raymond said the centre chose the location because there is an identified need.
A Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton study in 2012 showed that there were 6,600 individuals – about 35 per cent of whom were children – living below the poverty line in the upper Stoney Creek area, he said.
Raymond said since that time, the number’s probably gone up due to new developments and housing.
There also is a lack of food services in the area and residents in the upper Stoney Creek-east Mountain area often find it difficult to get to the centre’s Athen’s Street food bank on the west Mountain, he said.
Raymond said while numbers have been low at the food bank so far, he has every expectation that they will increase as time goes on.
“People in need don’t always immediately do what they need to do to address their need,” he said. “Sometimes there’s stigma and shame, sometimes there are other factors, like they just don’t have the time or they’re struggling with scheduling issues, transportation or other organizational barriers that are commonly involved with people who are in poverty as well. I anticipate that by the fall, which is typically the busy season in food banks in general, that’s when we’ll start to see the numbers that we were expecting.”
The food bank is open the first and third Friday of every month from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Neighbour to Neighbour delivers food from the centre and its storage facility on Lancing Drive to the church. The gymnasium at the church is then transformed into a food bank where users are able to shop for what they want, just as they would at a grocery store.
The food bank also has a resource counsellor on hand to help with any other social service-related needs food bank clients may have.
Raymond said there are about 19 programs in the centre’s family services department.
The resource counsellor is a conduit for those programs, he said.
“The resource counsellor is someone who’s highly-trained in assessing the needs and basically someone that you can feel comfortable talking to, talking through your barriers,” Raymond said. “It’s someone who can solve some of those problems for you. We’re very much focused on, not just providing food, but in trying to encourage people and show them the way out of the cycle of poverty.”
Raymond said there’s no shame in getting help if you need it.
“We’ve tried to position ourselves as an organization that you can approach if you need help, regardless of what kind of help that is and we’ll do whatever we can,” he said. “We’re committed to the long haul. We want to invest in the amount of time that it will take for the service to catch on.”
The food bank is in need of peanut butter, rice, whole grain cereal, baby formula and powdered milk.
For more information on the food bank or how to make a donation, call 905-574-1334 ext. 212 or visit www.n2ncentre.com.