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Sorting volunteers put on hold at Cambridge Food Bank as donations dip

Over 4,000 people accessed the food bank's services in February
Food donations are slowing down at the Cambridge Food Bank, executive director Dianne McLeod says.

February represented another month of troubling food insecurity statistics for the Cambridge Food Bank.

Over the 29 days, 1,761 emergency food hampers were given out to 4,315 people. Of those seeking assistance, 1,507 were children.

What may be more of a concern is the lack of food donations received during what its calling an "unprecedented surge in demand for emergency food assistance."

Donations are so scarce, the food bank has been forced to put its sorting volunteers on hold temporarily due to the shortage.

"Food donations are down and increased demand means food is going out nearly as quickly as it’s coming in," Dianne McLeod, executive director of the Cambridge Food Bank, said.

"However, we're fortunate that financial donations are holding steady and we're able to purchase a substantial amount of food. This food doesn’t require sorting as we order it on skids."

McLeod said the food bank is not at risk of running out of supply to give to those in need but the sorting volunteers are not required at the levels they previously were.

To combat the shortage and spur more community involvement, several initiatives are being undertaken.

A Cambridge Food Bank vehicle has been seen around the city for its stuff-a-van collection days at local grocery stores where people can donate items they pick up while shopping.

Residents are being encouraged to organize and run their own fundraisers with assistance from food bank staff.

Individuals and businesses can register for the drop off or pick up of large donations and customizable graphics and posters are available to help raise awareness about fundraising events.

Among the most sought after items are peanut butter, sandwich spreads, canned meat and fish, cereal, pancake mix, grains, canned fruit and school snacks.

McLeod and her team are also getting ready to put on a spring food drive in preparation for summer, which is a time when donations are typically harder to come by.

"We're hosting regular food collection events and we're getting ready to launch our spring food drive which is critical to help keep our shelves stocked over the summer months when donations drop off considerably," she said.

"We encourage neighbourbood groups, businesses, faith communities or anyone in our community to run a food drive to help us keep up with the increase in need we are seeing month after month."

More information on community food drives can be found at