Imagine pawning your deceased mother’s wedding ring to pay bills, taking out loans to feed your children, or contemplating putting a lock on the refrigerator to make groceries last as long as possible.
“That’s what being poor is,” says Nicole, mother of eight. “And it doesn’t feel good.”
Nicole is one of 850,000 Canadians assisted by food banks each month. According to Food Banks Canada, food bank use near record levels and 36 percent of those helped are children and youth.
“The Salvation Army’s food bank in Agincourt (a community in Toronto) eases my burden of living on a fixed income,” says Nicole. “And they don’t make me feel like a bad person for needing help.”
Nicole also says that people at the food bank make her feel comfortable enough to talk about her challenges, which helps her cope with her situation.
As a child, Nicole’s life was anything but normal. Her parents were both alcoholics and there was lots of arguing. They divorced when Nicole was young. By age 12, Nicole was living in an atmosphere with little rest. Roles had reversed and Nicole was cooking, cleaning and doing her own laundry. She remembers putting her intoxicated mother to bed many a night.
Pregnant in Grade 11, Nicole didn’t complete high school and moved in with her boyfriend. He suffered from depression and was unable to work. That was the first time she turned to The Salvation Army’s food bank for help.
“I’ve experienced hunger and it’s
not a good feeling.”
Over the years Nicole worked at various jobs to support her growing family. Many times, the only way they avoided absolute hunger was through the help of food banks.
Easing the Pressure
Today, Nicole is mother to eight children, ages one to 15. Managing her household is a full-time job. Having access to The Salvation Army’s food bank reduces her pressures of daily life.
“When I come to the food bank I have little or nothing in the cupboards or fridge,” says Nicole. “My kids’ smiles are a bit bigger when I come home with snacks or food items they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
The Salvation Army’s food bank in Agincourt has served the community for over five years.
“Every month our food bank helps 160 families,” says Leigh Rowney, community ministries and development coordinator. “We rely heavily on donations—but what comes in soon goes out and the shelves need to be filled again.”
“Without The Salvation Army’s food bank I don’t know what I’d do,” says Nicole. “I’d have to figure something out. I’ve experienced hunger and it’s not a good feeling.”