Minden Community Food Centre chairman, Don Veno, asked Minden Hills council Feb. 9 for additional financial support, “as we prepare for a challenging 2023.”
In asking for a $10,000 grant, he said the centre provided food and necessities for more than 2,600 people in 2022. Of that, nearly 40 per cent were children under the age of 12 and more than 20 per cent were between the ages of 65 and 95.
He noted Food Bank Canada had reported an average 35 per cent increase in usage over the past two years.
Locally, “the total demand in need drastically increased in the fourth quarter of the year and we anticipate that increase to continue by approximately over 30 per cent into 2023,” Veno added. He said a decision by Loblaws to remove its price freeze on No Name products will impact shoppers at ValuMart in Minden, and Todd’s Independent in Haliburton. Veno added they are seeing food prices far greater than the advertised eight per cent rate of inflation, more like 15 per cent in 2022 with another 20 per cent jump expected for 2023.
“This is simply unmanageable,” Veno said.
Their Christmas hamper project, their 28th, was the most expensive and most subscribed to date. More than 500 people were serviced, 187 children, who also received toys. It cost the centre $24,000, with an even greater figure anticipated for this coming December. The 2021 program cost about $20,000.
“Families are unable to sustain the cost of food locally as well as the cost of living. Economists predict interest rates will continue to rise, as will inflation, through 2023 before levelling off. We are just now starting to feel the impact. And as families and especially our elderly community, are trying to sustain the rising costs, it’s simply nearly impossible to manage without assistance,” Veno said.
In the meantime, the organization has made costly investments, including new freezers and a new generator system, required to ensure the safety of the food supply, that could be upwards of $80,000. There was also an unexpected $8,000 cost for the lift. The food bank pays its landlord and will spend between $12,000 and $15,000 on its community garden project.
Coun. Lisa Schell asked what the township usually gives, and director of community services, Craig Belfry, said they waive rental of the community centre for the Christmas hamper program, equivalent to about $2,000. He said they traditionally also give the centre $3,000-a-year.
Schell said she’s been a councillor for 16 years and didn’t think the financial contribution had changed.
Coun. Pam Sayne acknowledged the need for food security, saying without it there is stress and an impact on mental health. She added if the township did increase its support, it did not mean the community should stop donating.
Coun. Shirley Johannessen said the food bank could investigate other revenue sources, as well, such as road tolls, collection boxes, contacting the lake associations, doing more bottle drives, soliciting media coverage and using social media.
Veno said, “it’s true we need to get out there a little more” and it was part of the board’s plan for this year.
The chair also invited councillors to come for a food bank day to see the operation. Mayor Bob Carter commented it was worth seeing, “how important an institution this is to our community.”
The food centre ask has been referred to ongoing budget discussions.
Horticulturalists want more money
Members of the Minden and District Horticultural Society (MDHS) – president Connie Walker, Karen Shirley and Carolyn Park – spoke to council’s Jan. 26 meeting, also seeking more money.
Walker asked council for $3,000 for 2023, up from $2,000. She said the MDHS spent nearly $3,000 last year on the town gardens and $2,000, “doesn’t cover current costs and we expect a significant shortfall next year.”
Walker outlined a number of other concerns. She said while summer students water plants, they often don’t start until June and leave before September. It means plants are dying when it would be nice to keep them until Thanksgiving weekend for tourists.
Walker added they would like to return the flower boxes to the bridge. She said the MDHS is committed to getting them, putting them in, and maintaining them, but need township permission. She said she knew there was a concern about blocking views to traffic but they could lower them.
Walker said they would like to freshen the gazebo in the village green and put up minilights. They want to know when the brick pavers will be fixed, since they are a safety risk with potential liability for the town. It is in the proposed 2023 budget. Walker added they would like to have trees pruned, benches or outside chairs, and an ashtray so cigarette butts are not strewn about. They have also found memorial plaques buried in garden beds. They have refreshed them and want to find a permanent home in the Village Green.
Sayne thanked the group for its volunteer hours and did not think they were “asking for the moon.” This item was also coming back.