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Food bank demand at an all-time high heading into Thanksgiving weekend


Thanksgiving weekend marks one of the busiest times of the year for food banks in the Maritimes.

A record breaking number of meals and boxes were given out in 2022, and officials are expecting much of the same for 2023.

Romero House is a non-profit soup kitchen that has operated in Saint John for 41 years. Last thanksgiving the organization handed out a record smashing 799 turkey dinners to clients.

“What it’s going to look like this year I have no idea,” says Romero House executive director Evelyn McNulty. “Things are not better than last year, and in a lot of cases for a lot of people they are actually worse.”

Romero house operates entirely on community donations and hands out an average of around 400 to 450 meals a day for customers.

“In our 41 years we have never run out of food,’ McNulty says. “We are holding our own right now with our pantry being pretty slim, but it’s been slim before and somehow things have come through for us and we have survived.”

While doing their regular meal handouts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, Romero House has been preparing for Thanksgiving for weeks. Volunteers have cooked over 80 turkeys in preparation for window handouts on Monday.

“A lot of people are struggling and we don’t begrudge anyone a meal,” McNulty tells residents. “It’s a real sense of community comradery that the community of Saint John would get together to provide the goods that we need to provide that many Thanksgiving dinners.”

Stephane Sirois is the executive director for Food Depot Alimentaire, a distribution centre that provides resources to over 150 food banks, soup kitchens, and similar organizations in New Brunswick. Over the past month, Sirois says more than 90,000 residents have turned to food banks or soup kitchens for help, doubling the numbers from 18 months ago.

“The need is greater than it’s ever been,” says Sirois. “It’s concerning because we don’t see things really slowing down or peaking, let alone declining."

According to Sirois, almost all our food banks and community kitchens are at or over capacity.

“We never seen this before since food banks were set up in the early 80s. We keep seeing record after record of people needing food banks.”

Solving the growing hunger issue isn’t a matter of just providing more food.

“It’s not an issue of just throwing money in, it’s also the capacity to serve people,” Sirois insists. “A lot of foodbanks are entirely volunteer run, and those volunteers are getting burnt out and getting older as well. There’s only so many meals that one community kitchen can serve in one day.”

At the end of the month Food Banks Canada will release their National Hunger Count Report, which details how many and what kind of Canadians are using the food banks.

Nearly 1.5 million people visited a food bank in 2022, and officials are expecting a far higher number when this year’s survey is released.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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