Judy MacDuff, manager of the Haliburton 4Cs food bank, said after a bounce-back year in 2022, demand for service is on the rise again as inflation and high interest rates continue to hit Highlanders where it hurts most.

The food bank served 185 households in May, and MacDuff expects similar numbers for June and July once her reports are completed. That’s unusually high, especially when compared to pre-pandemic levels, she said.

“Normally, during the summertime, our numbers go down quite a bit. This year it hasn’t gone down an awful lot, and we’re starting to see our numbers climb again,” she said. “Before COVID, we used to help about 80 households per month. Now we’re way more than double that.”

Because of the need locally, the 4Cs moved to a twice monthly model. That has substantially driven up food costs, and demand, while bills such as gas and hydro have also creeped up.

“Until now, we’ve been able to get by on donations that come into the food bank, and money raised at the Lily Anne Thrift Store to cover our regular ongoing expenses… Now, with demand going up, we have no choice but to turn [to our community],” MacDuff said.

She was at Todd’s Independent Grocer Sept. 2 to support a food drive organized by Haliburton resident Mark Savin. He partnered with Purolator, his employer, to run ‘fill the truck’ events at Todd’s and Haliburton Foodland Sept. 1 and 2. The event was a “tremendous” success, Savin said, bringing in 4,246 pounds of non-perishable food and $2,104 cash to the 4Cs.

Savin told The Highlander he organized the event after watching a dozen or so people queue in the rain to get into the Haliburton food bank in April.

He reached out to MacDuff to see if she was interested in the event. The answer was unequivocally yes, Savin recalls, so he applied to Purolator to have the food drive sanctioned. The company sent two delivery trucks to Haliburton over the weekend to carry and store the donated food.

Such is the current need, MacDuff and other 4Cs volunteers unpacked donations received on Friday in time for people to stop in on Saturday.

“We had seven clients through on Saturday before noon, which is busy for us… they took some of the stuff we had just stocked home. We’re seeing that a lot now, as soon as something comes in, we’re sending it right back out the door,” MacDuff said.

While Savin is hoping to make this an annual event, he isn’t finished yet. Again, partnering with Purolator, Savin will join volunteers in dropping off red bags at 660 homes in Haliburton village Sept. 23, encouraging locals to fill the bag and then leave it on their porch for pickup Sept. 30. That’s part of a nationwide Purolator Tackles Hunger effort.

“When you hear from Judy how great the need is, we just have to keep going. It’s been overwhelming already seeing the response to this first drive. I’m excited to get out there and do it all over again,” he said.