Windsor’s meals banks, soup kitchens attempt to sustain with group want this Thanksgiving

Some of Windsor’s food banks and soup kitchens say the Thanksgiving weekend has only highlighted a noticeable increase in need from within the community.

The Downtown Mission has been busy serving special meals to community members over the last few days, but the big event is set for Tuesday afternoon.

That’s when the organization will provide a full-out Thanksgiving lunch with all the trimmings, as it does ever year.

But one thing that will likely differ from previous years is the number of people showing up for the meal, said executive director Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin.

“We started the year at about 1,000 individuals per month or 1,100 individuals per month and now we are at over 1,900 individuals per month,” Ponniah-Goulin said.

It’s heartbreaking to see that the need is there for such a wide spectrum of our society.— Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin, executive director with the Downtown Mission

Not only has the number of people accessing the mission spiked over the last nine months, Ponniah-Goulin said she’s specifically noticed the number of housed community members utilizing the service rise significantly.

“Everyday there’s a lineup at the food bank now, which is just not normal for us at the mission. Whereas last year, we would have had one or two days a week where there’s maybe two or three people in line.”

From mothers with strollers, to students, to elderly community members, Ponniah-Goulin said the demographics are widening.

“It’s heartbreaking to see that the need is there for such a wide spectrum of our society,” she said.

Volunteers gathered inside the Street Help kitchen prepare to give out meals. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The rapidly changing situation has the food bank purchasing more and more food to ensure the shelves aren’t empty when people turn to them.

“Thankfully we belong to the Essex Food Bank Association, which allows us, as well as other food banks, in our community to purchase chicken, eggs, and things like that at a discounted rate since we are buying larger quantities as a larger group, ” she said.

Affordable housing on issue

Anthony Nelson is the manager of Street Help, a soup kitchen at Windsor. He said his organization has also been busy this weekend offering Thanksgiving meals this weekend.

So far, Nelson said the soup kitchen has provided between 300 and 400 meals every day this weekend.

He said the organization has also given out out meals more this year.

There isn’t affordable housing, people have lost the chance to live somewhere for a while and can’t afford it.— Anthony Nelson, manager of Street Help

“We’re going through meals quite fast,” Nelson said.

“We’re starting to see it more busier. I find that because there’s more homelessness happening in the city, some of them are saying, ‘Where can I get something to eat?”

He said he suspects affordable housing as a large contributor to the noticeable increase in need from the community.

A woman wearing a sleeveless black dress and a blue lanyardRukshini Ponniah-Goulin is the executive director of the Downtown Mission of Windsor. Your organization wants to be part of the new collaborative housing hub. (Jason Viau/CBC)

“There isn’t affordable housing, people have lost the chance to live somewhere for a while and can’t afford it,” Nelson said.

“It’s hard for some of them to survive.”

While the final quarter of the year typically garners the most donations for the Downtown Mission, Ponniah-Goulin said because this year many people are facing the weight of inflation, she is a little worried.

Man in ball cap.Street Help in Windsor aims to provide sanctuary from the streets for unhoused community members. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

“So we’re hoping they will be able to continue to support us as they have in the past. And we’re hoping people who haven’t donated to us previously will be able to support us, given that they see the need in our community,” she said.

People in need of a Thanksgiving lunch can head to the Downtown Mission on Tuesday between 11:30 am and 1 pm

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