By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The need for food remains a constant presence even when donations to the Ancaster Community Services take a dip soon after the prolific Christmas drive.
It’s one of the reasons why ACS spearheads an intense food drive in February every year to remind the community hunger doesn’t take a holiday.
“Easter is coming up, so we may need goods for culturally appropriate issues,” said Alethea Ouzas, community outreach worker for the ACS. “The need is year round. We usually see a drop off in donations after Christmas and it’s unfortunate.”
Last year ACS collected a record 82,500 pounds of food and $6,500 in donations. In 2012 they received 81,000 pounds of food. In the food drive’s 21-year-history,1,203,000 pound of food and $63,500 in donations have been collected. Elementary and secondary schools are particularly helpful, gathering more than 10,000 pounds of food. This year’s event is Feb. 22.
Ouzas said donations that are particularly needed are dry goods like dried beans, flour, sugar, baking soda and any proteins, including peanuts, or alternatives because of allergies.
“We are also looking for lunch snacks for kids,” she said. “We do get some at the end of the summer and that’s wonderful, but kids go to school all year round. We can really use lunch snacks all year, juices as well and the usual stuff, pasta, pasta sauce, soups.”
Despite the end of the economic recession, and the low unemployment rate in Hamilton, more people than ever are accessing the community’s food bank services, said Ouzas. During Christmas, there was a 46 per cent increase over 2012.
Across Hamilton about 17,000 people use food banks every month, including just over 6,000 children. About 35 per cent of the people using the services are single, while about 55 per cent are families with children.
“The need is always there,” said Ouzas. “There has been an increase in the number of people accessing our services, including single people. I have never seen it like that before.”
She suggested more people are moving into the Ancaster area and are unfamiliar with the programs ACS offers, and there could be older people, semi-retired, who are finding their monthly cheques don’t go far enough as prices continue to rise. Ancaster Community Services food drive assists other city organizations, including St. Matthew’s House, Neighbour to Neighbour, Hamilton Food Share, the Salvation Army, Mission Services and the Good Shepherd Centre.
Volunteers will be distributing flyers to Ancaster homeowners Feb. 15 to remind residents about the food drive. Volunteers will then begin collecting the food on Feb. 22 and take it to St. John’s Anglican Church Parish Hall, where it will be packed and distributed. For more information or to volunteer to lend a hand, call 905-648- 6675.