By Sean Meyer/London Community News
Usage of the London Food Bank has risen 28 per cent in the past three years, a statistic that makes initiatives such as the Business Cares Food Drive more important than ever.
The 12th edition of the drive kicked off Thursday (Dec. 1) with a 4,000-pound donation of food from the University of Western Ontario (UWO). Also taking part in the official launch were members robotics teams from the UWO engineering department and Laurier and Oakridge secondary schools.
This year’s goal is to at least collect one more pound than the 228,000 pounds collected for the food bank last year. This year’s campaign is now underway and will run until Dec. 22.
Wayne Dunn, co-chair of the Business Cares Food Drive, said the campaign has exceeded its goal every year since the beginning, in large part, due to the never-ending generosity of London residents.
“The need has never been greater. We have a big job to do, but the kindness and generosity of London residents has shown us over the last 12 years is that we can do it,” Dunn said. “I have a great committee that truly expands into the community at large. But the other thing is simply the generosity of London residents. They really do contribute when it matters.”
Dunn credits the success of the drive to the efforts of ordinary London residents. Particularly since they are the ones who take up the challenges presented by all the local companies and organizations participating in the drive.
“No donation is too large or too small. That is an important message,” Dunn sad. “The kindness and generosity of one person or a family donating a bag or a can of food is equally as important as someone donating a big cheque to us.”
Last year, more than 300 local companies and organizations participated in the drive. As of the official launch, 200 companies have already signed up for this year’s campaign.
“We have said for years this campaign is employer sponsored, but employee driven. That is the key,” Dunn said. “By having the employees and staff issue challenges to each other, pull it all together. Without them, this campaign wouldn’t be possible.”
Currently an average of 3,200 families a month (or 8,500 individuals) come to food bank for help. Perhaps the most telling statistic about the importance of the drive is that 40.5 per cent of all individuals serviced by the food bank are children and youth under the age of 17.
Nobody knows these statistics better than Jane Roy, co-executive director of the London Food Bank.
The food collected during the drive comes into the food bank just before Christmas, which Roy said helps keep the shelves stocked for January and February.
With a growing need for assistance in the community, Roy said the importance of efforts such as Business Cares can’t be overestimated.
“It is huge in terms of not just the amount of food and money they bring it . . . but what is more significant to us in many ways is how many community partners come together for this,” Roy said. “How many businesses, and not just businesses, but communities like Western, like city hall, sports teams, it has become more and more a large community effort.”
Roy said that community effort not only benefits those using the food bank, but it also helps lift the spirits of those donating to it during the campaign.
“Individuals have the opportunity to make donations throughout the whole course of the year, this gives people the chance to get together in their place of work. And it helps foster community within the workplace,” Roy said. “It really makes a difference as to how you work with your co-workers because you are helping the community; you are doing something together in the broader sense.”
Currently the funds raised through Business Cares are split between three major programs created to encourage the donation of fresh produce, milk and eggs to local food banks.