A Message from our CEO

How The Hope Centre is addressing Food Insecurity in Welland
Group photo at the Welland Public Library with The Hope Centre banner

Food insecurity is the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.

The Hope Centre has been combatting food insecurity in the community of Welland for many years, either through our food bank or our daily community lunch. From 2014-2019, The Hope Centre saw a fairly consistent annual average of approximately 10,000 visits to our food bank. At The Hope Centre, a ‘visit’ is defined as one
person accessing the food bank one time.

In fact, things were looking up back in 2019, as that year was the third in a row showing a reduction in food bank visits, with only 8,595 visits in the course of that year.

Infographic for number of food bank visits. Total number of visits to The Hope Centre food bank during the year 2019 was 8,631 and in 2023 20,441.

Of course, we all can recall March, 2020…the date we all became familiar with a new, previously unknown virus that shut the world down.

At The Hope Centre, we were prepared for the worst. We believed that food insecurity would sky rocket throughout our community as people were unable to work and had to stay home. The Federal government then quickly introduced a benefit (CERB) that provided people impacted by the pandemic with $2,000 monthly to support them while businesses were shut down. The impact was immediate. Food bank visits dropped from an average of 716 per month to under 500 per month. Many people who would have previously accessed the food bank benefitted from CERB and were able to shop for their own groceries thanks to this benefit.

The CERB benefit ended in the fall months of 2020, and almost immediately food bank visits started to escalate month over month, until in 2022, The Hope Centre saw a (then) record number of visits, with over 11,500 visits.

This increase was bearable, as it was only about a fifteen percent increase over pre-pandemic numbers. Then, in 2023, the world re-opened.

Due to astronomical increases in the cost of food and housing, food insecurity in our community grew dramatically. We went from seeing an average of 716 visits in a month to over 1,700 visits per month – an increase of 137%!! In fact, last year 5,265 people, or 10% of the population of Welland, visited the food bank at The Hope Centre. This was fueled by over 2,300 people who had never used our food bank before.

Infographic showing the Unique Food Bank Users, A 943% increase from 2,719 in 2019 to 5,265 in 2023.
Infographic showing the number of new food bank users. A 195% increase from 799 in 2019 to 2,364 in 2023.

A ‘visit’ is defined as one person accessing the food bank one time. So, as an example, if a family of 3 uses the food bank four times in one year, that equates to 12 visits (3 people x 4 visits).

Unique users are individuals counted once, regardless of how many times they accessed the food bank that the year. 

With the cost of living increasing and incomes staying the same, a growing number of households are having to choose between paying their bills or purchasing groceries. We are facing a food security crisis in our community!

Of the unique users that are accessing The Hope Centre food bank it appears that this food security crisis is impacting children and seniors the most based on the increases we have seen since 2019, seniors 142% increase and children 113% increase.

In fact, children are over represented at food banks in Welland, representing 33% of the visits to our food bank while only making up 21% of our population.

Infographic showing this food security crisis is impacting children and seniors the mosted based on increases seen since 2019 - Seniors 142% and Children 113%

How does this exponential increase impact food security services at The Hope Centre?

Did you know that The Hope Centre food bank does not receive funding from the Federal, Provincial and Regional tiers of government. Some municipalities, such as The City of Welland, allocate some financial support to assist emergency food organizations in their communities. However, with the dramatic increase in people facing food insecurity these funds do not stretch very far.

For the most part we rely on donations from our Welland community to provide food for those facing food insecurity. This reliance on donations puts food banks in very precarious situations and puts a lot of pressure on the community to continue to give to support their neighbours in need.

In 2019, The Hope Centre needed approximately 172,000 pounds of food to meet the needs of our community. In 2023,  that increased to 408,000 pounds in 2023 – a gap of an additional 236,000 pounds of food.

For context, an empty shipping container weighs about 5,000 pounds…now picture 47 shipping containers stacked on top of one another and you can picture the approximate additional amount of food needed to meet our community needs.

As we enter into 2024, we are anticipating another year of record demand for food security programs at The Hope Centre. As of March 31, we have already noted a 33% increase in food bank visits over last year.

Photo of shipping containers stacked ontop of each other with a person standing infront to show the comparison in size.

Until such a time that people have enough income to meet their basic needs, particularly food and housing, we will continue to see increases in those in our community seeking supports. Thanks to the empathy, compassion and generosity of our Welland community, we are confident that we will be able to meet that need. As we always say in our food bank – we are simply stewards of the generosity of our community.

Thank you Welland!

Jon Braithwaite, CEO