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Community group looks to help as Ottawa Food Bank sees a surge in demand

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While food banks across Ontario continue to experience a surge in use, one Ottawa community group is working to fight food insecurity.

The Food for All Ottawa Facebook page has been bringing in 150 to 200 new members a month, connecting food donors directly with people in need.

Founders Julie Charron and Danielle Price first created the page during the COVID-19 pandemic, after seeing a rise in food requests on a local buy nothing maternity group.

"They were being turned away, they were asking too much," Price said. "We decided to create this group where people could just ask for food when they needed it."

"We would work together to get food donations throughout the city. We would go and pick them up and put little baskets together for people that are in need,” explained Charron.

As Canadians experience sky-high food prices, it has only driven more to the Facebook group. The statistics of its user base paint a picture of a community in need.

“There's 3,500 people, approximately 84 per cent of whom are women," Price said. "It makes me think that there are a lot of single mothers in this group; a lot of people are asking for school snacks."

On Sunday, the Food for All Ottawa page saw around a dozen posts, some from people requesting food and others from those who have the means to give.

"It seems that more people are wanting to assist when we have this many people in need," said Charron.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Food Bank is nearing its breaking point. CEO Rachael Wilson told CTV News on Saturday the organization will be reducing its services in order to stay afloat.

"We are struggling to be able to provide enough food and the reality is we cannot keep up with the demand,” said Wilson. "We're seeing double-digit increases every single month; there's just no way this is sustainable for us."

Charron and Price admit while their group is a step in the right direction, it is not a permanent solution.

"It would be nice if salaries would raise a little bit to assist with the cost of food and the cost of living," Charron said.

"If the city could find a way to fund the food bank better and continue to assist people the way they have in the past, that would be great," Price said.

For food banks and community groups alike, the call for donations has never been louder. Monetary donations can be made on the Ottawa Food Bank website, and those with food items can access the Food for All Ottawa group on Facebook.

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