Need for food is doubled in Hamilton during holiday season

The need for food from Hamilton food banks doubles during the holiday season and the charities are gearing up to meet that demand.

“There’s a huge spike,” said Joanne Santucci, executive director of Hamilton Food Share. “Usually there are around 17,000 people that cross the threshold to a food bank every month and when it gets close to Christmas time, we’re just barely making it.”

With the pressures of a holiday season combined with a low income, Santucci expects local food banks to help 32,700 Hamiltonians between now and Christmas. About 36 per cent, or more than 12,000 of them, will be children.

“It’s double what we do in a month,” she said. “It’s 12,800 hampers of every kind, single ones, family ones.”

On Dec. 6, CBC Hamilton’s Sounds of the Season is collecting food and monetary donations for Hamilton Food Share. CBC Hamilton’s Sounds of the Season Open House runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 118 James Street North. Drop by to make a food donation. At noon, hear our special musical performances by Dawn and Marra and Harrison Kennedy. Bid online for our silent auction items. Food bins will remain in the CBC Hamilton office for the month of December.

“It’s from new Hamilton and the outlying communities,” Santucci said. “We’re talking Stoney Creek, Ancaster, Dundas. It’s coming from everywhere.”

Santucci said 30 years ago, establishing food banks were a reactive measure to feeding people in need.

“People found it wasn’t a hunger problem, it was an income problem,” she said.

And Hamilton’s income inequality is growing. A recent report from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton found the bottom 90 per cent of the population earns an average of $31,900 annually.

“It really is a disparity between being able to provide the absolute basic and needs for your family,” Santucci said. “I don’t anticipate the need going away any time soon.”

But Hamiltonians have always been willing to help the community’s most vulnerable.

“Everybody really believes here you’re only as strong as your weakest link and if we can fortify that with the good will that’s in this community, we’ll have a better community,” she said.

Hamilton Food Share is looking for food donations to make up a healthy, Christmas meal and food for a few extra days. Santucci said cereals, hot stews and canned vegetables are welcome items for food hampers along with anything you’d like to see on your Christmas grocery shopping list.