The Ottawa Food Bank has officially moved to its new home, a move its CEO says is due to the rising demand for its services in the community.
“Although we’re excited to be in a new home that allows us to actually do our work and do better work, it’s really not a great celebration that we need to be here,” said CEO Rachael Wilson.
“There really is nothing grand about a food bank having to move into a space that is twice as large as it used to be.”
At 51,000 square feet, their new space on Bantree Street off Innes Road is more than double the size of their former 21,000-square-foot location on Michael Street.
This gives the food bank more warehouse space to accept food to serve the ever-growing demand, Wilson said.
“Since 2019, we’ve seen an 85 per cent increase in the number of visits, which is just historic and something we’ve never seen in our 40 years. And unfortunately, we don’t really see an end in sight right now ,” she said.
More opportunities in larger space
In their new, larger home, Wilson said the food bank has more space to store food, meaning they can now buy food items in bulk when they’re at a good price and have enough space to store them.
It also means the food bank can accept more donated items that need to be stored in a fridge or freezer.
“In the previous home, we were turning away about $80,000 to $100,000 every year of produce and other items because we just didn’t have the space for it,” she said.
Staff would be “playing Jenga” every day to try and find space for refrigerated items, she added.
Their new location also has a clean room where food bank staff can take bulk items like large bags of rice or flour and separate them into smaller bags people can take home.
The food bank still expects to see a large number of people who rely on its services in the near future.
Ottawa Morning4:41Ottawa Food Bank opens larger warehouse as demand soars
Demand won’t drop until underlying issues like a lack of affordable housing and rising inflation are addressed, said Wilson.
“Our hope is one day to close our doors … to reduce the number of people who need a food bank. But right now that’s just not our reality,” she said.