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Coping with Increased Food Insecurity

An Interview with Daily Bread Food Bank's Neil Hetherington

— May 27, 2020 — Business
With many Canadians losing their jobs in response to the shutdowns due to COVID-19, financial stress and food insecurity has unfortunately risen. In response, food banks have had to increase their output to accommodate the high demand. This has proven especially difficult during this time, as food banks have seen a decrease in donations in recent weeks, and have less volunteer staff available who are able to help.

In an effort to give back to the community, Kia Canada announced that it would deploy funds through a national partnership with Food Banks Canada, as a part of the #PowerToGive initiative. This includes a $200,000 kick start donation, and Kia Canada will work with a national network of dealers to connect food banks in need with agencies that are able to lend further support. Through the initiative, the auto company is also offering its press fleet of high-end vehicles to food banks in Vancouver and Toronto, making it easier for staff to deliver food to vulnerable Canadians, while ensuring staff are able to travel more safely.

To learn more about how food banks are coping with the changes brought on by the pandemic and what the partnership with Kia Canada means for them, we spoke with Neil Hetherington, Chief Executive Officer of the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto.

How has COVID-19 impacted food insecurity in recent weeks, and how has this affected the operations of Daily Bread Food Bank?

Our team has had to pivot our operations and jump over the hurdles thrown our way. We’ve experienced disruptions to our distribution channels, along with anxious volunteer staff and a workforce who are concerned about their personal safety conditions and health.

Overall, there is up to a 40% increase of Canadians who are food insecure across Toronto. Daily Bread Food Bank's demand has increased by 122% during this time, with many Toronto food banks receiving as much as three times the normal number of client visits.

Despite these obstacles, we have been able to maintain physical operations while following recommended protocols and organize a creative team who are dedicated to supporting our community.

What changes have been made to meet the surge in demand?

To meet the increased demand, we have focused on fixing and improving our broken distribution channels across Daily Bread. We have also been navigating physical separation concerns to ensure everyone is safe. We’re doing everything we can to make sure people are going about their jobs as safely as possible.

What can you tell us about the recent partnership with Kia? How will it benefit the staff at Daily Bread Food Bank?

This partnership is extremely thoughtful and ensures that our employees can go about their jobs safely and with less anxiety. It's an incredible opportunity for an organization to leverage its creativity and assets to help fulfill a mission of vital importance to society. Kia is ultimately saying “we care,” and our employees take comfort in knowing that a large company cares about them on the frontlines. It’s inspiring and motivating—and I know it’s appreciated.