3M donation to The Table.
The Table’s Wendy Quarrington poses with Bill Sommers, plant manager at 3M in Perth, and Andre Pugh, human resources manager, to show off just some of the two barrel-fulls of food donated by 3M employees to the food bank on Friday, Jan. 18.
PERTH - Some members of the working poor are utilizing the Perth food bank because its pick-up hours fit in better with their work schedules.
Even though Lanark Highlands has its own food bank in Lanark Village, “we serve the same number of people from the Lanark area as we do with Drummond/North Elmsley and Tay Valley,” revealed Nancy Wildgoose, the executive director of The Table, during a delegation to the Town of Perth’s committee-of-the-whole meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
“We ask for proof of address at the food bank,” said Wildgoose, though she was quick to add that this is done as discreetly as possible. “We have a catchment area,” but they still see people from Smiths Falls who work in Perth.
“We give them a bit, but send them back to Smiths Falls,” said Wildgoose. “We don’t send anyone away hungry.”
The revelations about the working poor echo comments made earlier this month by Hugh Colton, organizer of the Build-a-Mountain of Food campaign, that he too has seen an increase in the working poor using food banks.
But for people who have used the facility in the past and then gotten back on their feet, a “significant” number of them have returned to the facility to volunteer.
“Like many people, they want to give back,” said Wildgoose.
Over the past year, the facility has changed its name from the Perth and District Food Bank to The Table Community Food Centre, and expanded its purview beyond simply providing food to those in need, to give voice to those dealing with poverty.
“A real barrier to people’s health is isolation,” said Wildgoose. “We want to speak out and attack issues in the food system and poverty…We want to hear of people who have lived with poverty. They have a lot to say and say it differently.”
By her estimation, The Table helped 1,700 Perth and area residents, with about 900 people directly showing up at the door to collect food, and bringing it home to about 800 more people, during the course of about 2,608 visits over the year, of which about 40 per cent are children.
“It’s quite striking,” said Wildgoose, though she noted that there are also a lot of single people who are struggling who avail of the services. “A lot of people have lost their job six months ago and never thought they would darken our door, who cross the threshold in tears.”
While the poverty is more hidden from view than in places like downtown Toronto or Ottawa, “the poverty is visible,” if you look, she said.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, The Table hosts a dinner.
“It’s simple,” said Wildgoose. “It’s a balanced meal. You can have a vegetarian option if you want.”
Having a balanced meal is another part of The Table’s mandate.
“Food banks get criticized for not serving good food,” said Wildgoose, something that is just not so at The Table, where local eggs and beef are donated, and cooking classes are held to teach proper food handling, preparation and nutrition. “People find it dignified.”
There are several other food-related programs that The Table runs, such as Dads and Kids in Kitchens, where father and children, and Big Brothers, learn the fundamentals of cooking, while they host developmentally challenged adults with a cooking class on Wednesday mornings, plus an after-school program.
The Table also plans to break ground on the remaining 4,000 square feet of land at Last Duel Park which was donated to it. The first 4,000 square feet are already under cultivation, which has produced about 734 kilos of fresh produce from the gardens.
Away from the dining tables and kitchens, The Table has also taken on an advocacy group and a social action group.
“We are very hopeful that you will see a role for the town,” to support The Table’s work, said Wildgoose.
“It’s unfortunate that we have a food bank, but we are fortunate that we have a food bank,” said Deputy Mayor John Gemmell.
“A community is first and foremost about serving the most vulnerable,” said Mayor John Fenik in thanking The Table for its good work. “I’d love to put you out of business.”