POLITICS

City of St. John's, N.L., collects donations door to door to help food bank

12/03/2014 11:37 EST | Updated 02/02/2015 05:59 EST
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland's famous generosity was on display at a food bank warehouse Wednesday, where shelves are filling since the City of St. John's launched its first door-to-door collection.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe asked the city's 100,000 residents to help make up a 27,000-kilogram donation shortage.

The Community Food Sharing Association depot that supplies local food banks ran low after a yearly Canada Post food drive was cancelled due to staff cuts.

"It's really putting us back on track again," said Egbert Walters, the association's general manager. Behind him were steel cages filled with all kinds of donations, from cereal and canned soups to pasta, juice and tinned vegetables.

"Our food banks across Newfoundland and Labrador last year served just under 27,000 people on a regular monthly basis, so the need is certainly there."

Walters said children under the age of 18 made up almost 40 per cent of that total, which was up about one per cent from the year before.

"The people who use food banks, they could be your next-door neighbour and you wouldn't know it," he added. "A lot of people out there are one pay cheque away from using the food bank."

O'Keefe said the week-long, ward-by-ward food drive had gathered almost 25,000 kilograms of non-perishable donations since Monday. The goal is now to reach 45,000 kilograms, he told reporters at the warehouse.

Three city trucks and about 10 outdoor workers have been diverted to gather bags of food marked with an "F" and left on door knobs and front stoops.

Volunteers are also helping to collect from a different ward each day this week until all five wards have been covered. On Monday, contributions will be picked up from condominium lobbies and apartment buildings.

O'Keefe said it's a small cost for the city compared to the value of the food collected so far — worth an estimated $135,000 — and the good it can do.

He hopes the door-to-door campaign will become an annual event that will inspire others across the province to help in their communities.

"The need is there and has always been there, in good times and bad," O'Keefe said. It persists despite an unprecedented economic boom in St. John's over the last decade driven by offshore oil wealth, he stressed.

"St. John's right now is enjoying a very high period of prosperity, but there are people who are falling between the cracks."

Higher costs for food, housing and home heating have been tough on many people, O'Keefe said.

"Their incomes in all cases haven't gone up to match that increase because they're not part of the new economy," he said.

Walters was clearly thankful for the rush of donations, but hopes that generosity will continue after the Christmas season is over.

"It's important that we all remember that people eat 52 weeks of the year," he said.

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