Feeding Greater Montreal
While many people are using their extra time at home to cook, many more wonder how they are going to feed their families today and for the coming weeks.
Even before COVID-19 struck, Greater Montreal was home to 614,000 people experiencing poverty and social exclusion and 200,000 people experiencing food insecurity.
Before the pandemic, all of these people could turn to the hundreds of community agencies in Greater Montreal’s boroughs, cities and neighbourhoods for their food needs.
But the COVID-19 crisis has forced these agencies to suspend a lot of their services. The situation has put an even greater strain on vulnerable people who can no longer access the same support, while the number of people in need has increased due to confinement measures and job losses. Overall, 50% of calls to 211 relate to food. Food aid requests are exploding.
In addition to those who are already vulnerable, there are:
Food aid requests are exploding
But agencies are monitoring the changing situation and adapting to meet needs.
They have turned on a dime to implement emergency plans.
- In most boroughs, cities and neighbourhoods, the priority is on preparing and delivering individual meals and food baskets. All resources have been mobilized: kitchens and chefs, vehicles and delivery people, workers and volunteers.
- Some community grocery stores will remain open, with new measures to reduce physical contact between clients and staff. They are also focusing on making food baskets instead of letting clients freely move through the store to do their grocery shopping.
- Some agencies are giving out prepaid cards to families with young children, as some essential products have limited inventories (baby formula, diapers, etc.).
- Five food supply sites run by community agencies have been temporarily set up in five key Montreal areas to meet the desperate needs of the homeless: Place Émilie-Gamelin (Le Sac à dos), Cabot Square (Resilience Montreal), Place du Canada (Old Brewery Mission), Aréna Francis-Bouillon (L’Anonyme) and Parc Jeanne-Mance (Plein Milieu).
- Mobile food distribution resources are being deployed from east to west to directly reach people in need.
“We are constantly working to analyze and respond to requests to the Emergency Fund as quickly as possible. We are amazed by agencies’ ability to quickly change course and find new ways to help isolated and vulnerable people in this unprecedented situation. We can see an almost sense the real-time impact of Centraide's chain of generosity on people. Donors and agencies have responded to the call. It’s a good thing they’re there!
“We’re also part of the crisis cells in Montreal, in Laval and on the South Shore together with public health authorities, municipalities and the community sector. Food aid is always at the top of our priority list. We’re paying close attention to the situation of isolated seniors and people experiencing homelessness. How do you apply stay-at-home orders when you live on the street? We also have to think about vulnerable people at risk of violence, such as women, children and people with mental health problems. The vulnerable become even more so in times like these.”
- Mario Régis, Vice President, Social Development, Centraide of Greater Montreal
Troops of people on the front lines to feed Greater Montreal
The Emergency Fund is supporting a number of food security agencies, such as La Tablée des Chefs and La Cantine pour tous, which will play crucial roles in the weeks to come.