Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harvest hauls in tonnes of food

Big outpouring for facility's big day

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Winnipeg Harvest's 26th annual fall food drive brought in about 25 tonnes of food Saturday.

That's enough to feed the 54,000 people who regularly depend on the province's largest food bank for about five days.

And Harvest's longtime leader, executive director David Northcott, said he was delighted with the haul.

"We'll make it to 20 or 25 tonnes of food today. That's from what we've been collecting all week at the Safeways and the Costcos," Northcott said, naming depots where shoppers drop off cans of tomatoes and bags of spaghetti among other non-perishables. "People have been very generous."

The annual drive each October is a mainstay and the food bank relies on it to feed the needy.

Not even the visible signs of prosperity in Winnipeg, its downtown construction boom or its entertainment juggernaut at the MTS Centre can disguise the reality for the working poor these days.

The number of people who can't put food on the table is up this year over last year. Again.

The jump in the last 12 months is approaching 20 per cent. Last year at Thanksgiving, 45,000 depended on the food bank. Today the number is about 54,000, Northcott said.

The face of poverty is changing in Winnipeg, judging by those who have grown familiar with Winnipeg Harvest.

The homeless now make up the minority of users. Families with minimum-wage jobs and young children make up the majority of recipients. The elderly who've outlived their pensions or discovered their pensions fall short of living expenses are growing in number.

Northcott said that as generous as Winnipeggers are, he will be asking them to step up donations. "We need to keep the pressure on for the whole month."

It's not just dry goods and cans a crowd of volunteers turned out to sort at Harvest's Winnipeg Avenue location Saturday.

The Monk family, for instance, sorted potatoes, stacked three feet high in a cardboard bin the size of an ATV in the brightly lit food bank storage bay.

"I don't know that I ever didn't know about Harvest," said Janet Monk, who with her husband, Gregory, and their triplets, a trio of six-year-olds, was sorting out the rotten potatoes. The Monks started volunteering a month ago.

"What we decided to do was to bring the kids in. My husband and I have served in other areas in our jobs but if people are hungry, we can do this and this is what the kids can understand. We all eat, right?" Janet said.

Three or four hours of bending, sorting and moving boxes of potatoes aren't easy for six-year-old kids. Or adults.

"Don't cry," whispered Gregory, catching his daughter's eye at one point. "Think of the kids who don't have anything at all," he prompted.

"We nudge them along," Janet said with a smile.

She said the rewards are worth it. "It's exactly as people say. It really does feel good to help other people," Janet said.

The Share Your Thanks food drive was in full throttle Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2012 A4

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