Stratford panels with increasing use
As with their London counterparts, usage has increased in two Stratford food banks.
Theresa McMurray said Stratford’s House of Blessing had served 354 more households by July than in the first seven months of 2020, largely marked by the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s an extra month of grocery bank (supplies),” she said.
Total household usage increased by 15 percent by July this year compared to the same period in 2020 and 20 percent more than at this point in 2019.
Of the households accessing the House of Blessing board this year, 75 are using it for the first time.
“We always have this activity, but it matters at this point,” said McMurray.
The number of people receiving groceries from the House of Blessing through seven months of 2021 increased 17 percent from January to July 2020 and 16 percent from 2019, slightly surprising for McMurray, given the government aid programs available to assist those in need while the pandemic.
The trend is similar to what was reported by the London Food Bank earlier this month.
“I don’t know why things are happening,” said McMurray. “Many of us can come to conclusions, but you never know what someone is going through and why they need help more and more.”
The Food Bank of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a partnership with the Catholic Churches of St. Joseph and the Immaculate Conception in Stratford, served 66 families – 93 adults and 32 children – last month, said Rev. David Butler of St. Joe. While the number of blackboard visits in the first six months of 2021 fell slightly compared to the same period of the previous year, the number of adults and children who used the blackboard increased.
“At the beginning (of the pandemic) it dropped to next to nothing because everyone was so confused,” he said. “A few months later it was steadily increasing, but the numbers have been increasing every month.”
Many new families have accessed the Church Board, which is operated from St. Joe’s meetinghouse and has remained open during the pandemic, Butler said.
“It is worrying because many (of people) may face increased housing and food spending and have to stay afloat,” he added. “We don’t judge the families who come in and know all about their demographics. We just let them come and assume that they really need the help.
“There’s probably not much left behind the scenes at the end of the month.”
Butler praised the roughly 2,500 families that make up the local churches that have taken action during the pandemic to help.
“The people here have been very generous,” he says. “Last year… a lot of people donated extra. The people here are very committed to ensuring that this continues. There are many committed volunteers for this. “
While the table of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is open once a week on Wednesdays, the table of the House of Blessings is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Erie Street charity is in the midst of transition to help with both building and deliveries, which was originally a temporary measure last spring but has continued with increasing success.
“It’s like we have two different boards in the building now,” said McMurray. “It’s still changing, and we’re still evolving to where we see people need it. We did what we had to do to fill the gap. “
For more information about the House of Blessings, visit shob.org or call 519-273-3433. To learn more about the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, email [email protected] or call 519-271-6722 ext. 2.