Surge in Demand Leaves Depot Community Food Centre Turning Away Needy for First Time in History

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The Depot Community Food Centre in NDG is grappling with a surge in demand for services, a situation so severe that for the first time in its history, the organization has begun to turn people away.

Sebastian Britton, the community chef on site, juggles the rigorous preparation of meals for the week ahead while also slogging through the details for the upcoming orders, making each day a significant preparation cycle. While this community centre, formerly christened as the NDG Food Depot, has seen some recent changes, the pace of operations is a recent shift. The previous intensity of 200 meals cooked in a single day is now the standard.

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As the cost of living continues its unrelenting rise, more members of the community are seeking assistance through the Depot’s support services, such as meals and an inexpensive market. This additional burden resonates sharply with the devoted workers maintaining the organization’s services. “It’s our inability to help people that is very demoralizing and it makes it very, very hard,” shared Houda Kerkadi, The Depot’s Community Engagement Coordinator.

This difficulty goes beyond merely meeting daily expenses. Some clients grapple with unexpected expenditures, from sudden illnesses to needs of their children. The Depot has witnessed an influx of clients from diverse backgrounds – immigrants, employed individuals, students, and families, desperate to make ends meet.

As a countermeasure for its stretched resources, the Depot has been compelled to reduce the provision of its market basket by a third, and limit visits from once every two weeks to monthly. Additionally, despite a budget hike of half a million dollars this year, the community center is unable to serve everyone.

This surge in demand is not unique to the Depot. Moisson Montreal, one of Canada’s largest food banks, is also bearing the brunt of the increased need for services. According to Maggie Borowiec, Moisson Montreal’s Director of Philanthropy, the food bank’s clients are seeking out more assistance, with no visible improvement or decrease in dependency.

A ray of hope is the recently inaugurated garden in Pierrefonds-Roxboro aimed at helping supply a local food bank. Following suit, Moisson Montreal is developing a similar initiative. Borowiec envisages this move as an opportunity to break the food bank’s exclusive dependence on donations. In her words, “to be actually growing food dedicated to the food bank.”