More seniors relying on food bank

Students from St. Joseph's Catholic High School in St. Thomas sort donation boxes at the London Food Bank, April 11, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The number of seniors relying on the London Food Bank has jumped drastically over the last three years.

According to figures released by food bank officials Thursday, there has been a 35 per cent increase in the number of people over the age of 60 who have used the food bank since 2015.

“We looked at the statistics and three years ago we had a little over 5,600 seniors coming to us. When we looked at it last year in terms of the whole year that number had jumped to nearly 8,000 individuals… That was a huge jump for us,” said Jane Roy, co-executive director of the London Food Bank.

The increase is attributed to an aging population as more and more baby boomers reach retirement age, living on fixed incomes and insufficient pensions.

The staggering numbers came as the food bank prepared to kick off its 32nd annual Spring Food Drive. Roughly 30,000 donation bags will be delivered to local grocery stores Friday and another 60,000 bags will be available through the April 18th edition of the London Free Press. Londoners are asked to fill the bags with non-perishables and drop them off at grocery stores, the city’s 14 fire halls, or at the food bank at 926 Leathorne Street.

Roy noted 60 per cent of all food donated to the drive will be divided up among 25 other social agencies and programs in the city, including Meals on Wheels which delivers more than 400 “food boxes” to area seniors each week.

“Our staff and volunteers work with the food bank to put together food boxes for people who can’t come to the London Food Bank themselves. So we make sure they are getting dairy, grains, soups and anything that they might need at home,” said Jeff Tomlinson, president of Meals on Wheels London.

In addition to delivering nutritious meals to seniors, Tomlinson notes the food box program gives seniors who are unable to venture out of their home vital human interaction on a regular basis.

“It would be really hard for us to provide this level of service to seniors if not for our partnership with the food bank and the generous donations of Londoners,” added Tomlinson.

Last year, 2.25-million poundsĀ of food were donated by Londoners to the food bank. Just under 68,000 lbs of that came via the spring campaign.

“Londoners are consistently giving through the food drives that we hold, but they are also giving consistently throughout the year and that has been the real reason why we have been able to help as many people as we have,” said Roy.

The spring food drive runs until Easter Monday on April 22.