Hamilton Food banks meeting growing need with extended hours

The face of poverty is changing.

That means Hamilton’s food banks need to change right along with it.

The city’s food banks will soon be extending their hours of operation to reach more of Hamilton’s “working poor” who can’t easily access their services during the traditional operating hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Denise Arkell, chair of the newly created emergency food strategic planning committee, said it’s an idea food banks and emergency food programs have been discussing for years. “We have a vision that no one goes hungry,” Arkell said. “Working people can’t always get to a food bank during the day.”

Agencies participating in the extended-hours pilot project are Good Shepherd, Mission Services of Hamilton, Neighbour to Neighbour, Hamilton Salvation Army, Dundas Salvation Army, St. Matthew’s House, Wesley Urban Ministries and Living Rock Ministries.

Under the plan, one of those food banks will be open Thursday night from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each week on a rotating basis.

Arkell, who is also the executive director of Neighbour to Neighbour, said food banks are preparing for an increase in demand along with the extended hours.

“We do realize that we will have to do more food-raising,” she said.

Carmen Salciccioli, director of the Good Shepherd food bank, said food banks will be challenged to meet the increased demand as use of the Good Shepherd bank is up 14 per cent so far this summer compared to 2013.

“As far as the Good Shepherd goes, I think we’ll be OK,” he said. “Our dream would be to close the food bank for good, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.”

According to Hamilton Food Share, at any given time, about 35,000 Hamiltonians experience “food insecurity.” More than 7,000 Hamilton families visit a food bank each month, the group’s study shows.