Ottawa’s community food pantry is out of service at a time when the need is greater than ever

Soot and the smell of smoke remain inside the Parkdale Food Center community pantry two days after a fire severely damaged the compound.

“Paper, insulation and someone had put all of this here and they set it on fire,” said general manager Karen Secord.

Secord says the damage could have been much worse, but an off-duty volunteer firefighter acted quickly.

“He smelled the smoke, took all the things out of the pantry and immediately took out the refrigerator, worried about an electrical fire,” she explained. “They really saved us from losing that whole hangar.”

The refrigerator and pantry provide food to those who need it most in Ottawa West. Now it is out of service at a time when these kinds of services are needed more than ever.

“I and a lot of people use it twice a week, sometimes more if I have to,” said one person who dropped by to pick up a few items.

According to Ottawa Public Health, approximately one in seven households in Ottawa suffer from food insecurity, and almost one in ten experience moderate to severe food insecurity. Proponents say this means that services trying to fill in the gaps… quickly become overloaded.

“As the cost of food continues to rise, it’s creating stress for people who are already struggling to meet their food security needs,” said Erica Braunovan, director of the Ottawa Community Food Partnership. . “The food bank system we use is broken and we need to take new approaches to food security.”

Parkdale Food Center staff say they are stocking the pantry and fridge four, five, even six times a day as needs in Ottawa worsen and more people turn to community supports .

“We do our best, but where does that money come from? We have to rely on the community, we certainly can’t rely on governments,” Secord said.

Still, she says their efforts are not enough.

“When you see old people coming to the pantry and fridge in Mechanicsville dragging their bags behind them and arriving here with no food in the fridge, it’s heartbreaking. People are literally dying hungry,” she said.

Norma P. Rex