The West Muskoka Food Bank is a volunteer organization that was formed in 2011 in response to the need in West Muskoka for assistance with food and groceries. Many of our friends and neighbours are employed in the service and construction industries which often do not provide enough income to comfortably support a family. Due to the seasonal nature of employment for many in our area, we have discovered great need, particularly in the winter months. The food bank is one response to that need.
For over 20 years the community has come together for the annual OPP/ministerial Christmas Food Drive. This has been very successful and has allowed the community to distribute quite generous hampers to approximately 60 families each year. We recognized that families are not only hungry at Christmas so resolved to begin a food distribution system that would operate all year long. The First Muskoka Church graciously offered a room and we opened on Friday mornings from 9:00-11:00 each week, and have continuously operated. We have since moved into the basement of the Glen Orchard Community Centre to allow us more space and have also been collecting clothing, coats, boots and hand-knit hats and mitts. We are now open Thursday nights from 6:00 – 8:00 pm as well as our usual Friday mornings from 9:00 – 11:00 am. Believing that our first priority is to maintain the dignity of our clients, our service is confidential and requires no means test to access. Last year we served 312 contacts, 812 adults, 187 children for a total of 999 individuals. This represented people from 50 separate families coming from Torrance, Bala, Wahta, Port Carling, Moose Deer Point, and Milford Bay.
The community has been amazing in their support of this project. Although started by the local churches and the OPP, many community organizations have joined us including the Lions, Fire Department, Rotary, Dads of Muskoka, Bala Freshmart, Port Carling Foodland, the District of Muskoka, Beaver Creek Correctional facility, Moon River Residents Association, Dollars for Dinners Crockpot Meals and many private individuals. Volunteers faithfully man the bank Thursday nights and Friday mornings to provide assistance with shopping, sorting food and greeting clients. This is truly a community building enterprise. This year we were honoured to be chosen as the feature charity for the Muskoka Lakes Mayor’s Golf Classic. What a privilege it is to be associated with such wonderful clients and volunteers in our great community.
Due to the recent rapid growth of the food bank, we have now become a non-profit corporation with our own Board of Directors. This will improve our governance and provides us with a charitable number for income tax purposes.