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Montreal food depot forced to turn people away amid increasing demand

The demand for services at the Depot Community Food Centre in NDG has gotten so high that, for the first time since it opened, the organization has had to start turning people away.

“I’m getting my food ready for the week for my menu,” said Community Chef Sebastian Britton, speaking to CTV in the non-profit’s kitchen on Monday. The centre used to be called the NDG Food Depot until a recent rebranding, but that’s not all that’s new.

“I’m also receiving my orders for the week,” he said. “So, today's nothing but a big prep day.”

It’s big prep for another big week, but that’s becoming the norm. Staff say a busy day would include around 200 prepared meals, but nowadays, that feels like a regular shift.

The Depot offers meals and access to an affordable marché to the community. The cost of living is rising among clients, management says, and it means the amount of people needing their services is climbing, too.

“It's our inability to help people that is very demoralizing and it makes it very, very hard,” said Houda Kerkadi, The Depot’s Community Engagement Coordinator.

“A lot of times, people had to make a payment that they didn’t expect. Sometimes, it would be because of an illness, or that their kid needed something … There’s a variety of cases.”

A rise in demand means The Depot can’t serve everyone, despite increasing its budget by half a million dollars this year.

To compensate, the centre has had to cut the market basket sizes by a third, and those who used to come twice a month, can now only come once.

“We see more people from all over the world, and migration is just going to continue. We see more people who have jobs, we see more students who can’t make ends meet, families, everyone is knocking on our door,” said Executive Director Tasha Lackman.

Moisson Montreal, one of the largest food banks in Canada, is also seeing a significant increase in demand.

“People who were accessing food banks are asking for more help. There hasn’t been an improvement,” said Maggie Borowiec, Moisson Montreal’s Director of Philanthopy.

“There haven’t been people who were just there temporarily, who were able to get back on their feet and not need the help anymore,” she added.

Last month, a garden was inaugurated in Pierrefonds-Roxboro to help supply a local food bank. Now, Moisson Montreal is doing the same thing.

Borowiec says it will allow the food bank to break free from sole reliance on donations, “to be actually be growing food dedicated to the food bank.” 

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