The Ottawa Food Bank has moved into a new, larger location, as it deals with record-breaking demand for food.
The organization unveiled its new location and warehouse on Friday. It is a much larger space, which, according to the food bank, allows it to keep up with the highest demand they have ever seen in their nearly 40-year history.
“A significant increase in size for us, in order to meet the ongoing demand,” said Rachael Wilson, Ottawa Food Bank CEO.
It’s a new warehouse at a time when demand has never been higher.
“While we are excited to be in this new space, it’s not exactly exciting for us. It’s really challenging times,” Wilson said.
The Ottawa Food Bank’s network of food banks served over 430,000 clients last year; that’s up 28 per cent from the previous year.
“The amount of food that we distributed last year was 105 per cent more than what we’ve ever sent in our previous years, and charities like ours continue to meet the ongoing and increased demand,” Wilson said.
The new space allows the Ottawa Food Bank to keep up with demand. The warehouse space is more than twice the size of the old facility, and the walk-in fridge is six times the size. The fridge at the old warehouse held 20 pallets, while the new one held 120.
“Before we used to be moving eggs and milk out every single day, now we have the ability to actually store it and don’t have to play Jenga to make space for it,” Wilson said.
“So, we’re able to make sure that we get the best price possible and have everything on hand if there needs to be an increase in surge in demand.”
A $139,300 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation helped equip the new warehouse. It allowed the food bank to purchase two forklifts and certify a staff member to be an in-house trainer of the new equipment.
“It’s going to help the Ottawa Food Bank operate this much bigger warehouse,” Ottawa South MPP John Fraser said.
“Greater capacity and the reason that it is a bigger capacity is the need in the community is incredible. If you look at food prices and everyone does shopping, we know how expensive it is to live, to put food on the table.
“So, families need help.”
On Friday, a group of volunteers celebrated their 40th shift at the Ottawa Food Bank. It was also their first day in the new building sorting food.
“I feel like it’s more built for volunteers than the older one. The old one was a lot more compact, but this one is a lot more spacious,” says Damien Tsotroudis.
“It’s wonderful; it’s modern, it’s clean, it’s well organized – it’s fantastic,” says Jenny Papadopoulos-Kerrick.
The Ottawa Food Bank is the main emergency food provider in the national capital region, which works in partnership with a network of over 100 community food programs to provide food and supplies for tens of thousands of people each month – 37 per cent of whom are children .