FRONTLINE STORIES: OMICRON AND HUNGER

How is this most recent wave affecting food security? No-one can tell you better than Mazon's front-line partners.


Mazon is proud to have raised and distributed $50,000 with 0% overhead to programs facing rising need through this pandemic. The generosity of these Omicron Campaign donors will provide over 14,000 meals in areas most affected by this viral wave and lockdowns.


However... We usually aim to focus our messaging on the 'successes', the positive outcomes, the lives changed and meals fed. Today, we want to share with you the raw realities of poverty in Canada today, and of the patchwork quilt of thousands of food programs struggling to support these people.


Here are the stories we heard from the battlegrounds of the fight against hunger as we reached out with Emergency Grants from our successful Omicron Campaign:

From Michelle Dimoglou at York Region Food for Learning, providing food for schoolchildren in York Region:


“This is how Omicron has impacted our schools: People are scared. Families who need food are the same people who work jobs where if they are away for one day, they don’t get paid that day. They’re so scared about sending their kids to school because they could get Omicron and keep them away from work. It impacts their finances and their child’s learning.

In one school [in our network], 260 out of 800 kids didn’t come back to school in person after winter break. The kids are so disengaged from learning. The dynamic is that they’re at home, looking after younger siblings [while their parents work, not able to focus on remote learning]. These are high achievers. They’re the sweetest kids… but they’re in immigrant families, families in need.


With the rising cost in food, that’s where my heart breaks for them. Plus the weather, the food shortages from the trucking disruption...


In many cases, honestly, these families are even worried about shelter, about paying for rent if they miss work and having a place to live.

The thing is, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a job where you can take the week off. People with salaried jobs can forget that and not understand why kids are being kept home from school."

From an anonymous source at a Kosher hot meal program in Montreal:

"Your timing is amazing. Things are very hard right now.


Also, my wife cooks for 5 of our families every week. Since things got hard this winter, she said, 'I'll cook more, I'll try to cook for 10 families.' But then she got sick [with the Delta variant], and so we had to find others to replace her meals, on top of everything else. But I know she will be alright, because when she has energy, she spends it helping others. G-d loves such people. Earlier this week, I was crying... I had 2 requests I couldn't fulfill. So I took a small loan personally and said, 'Take it off my credit card'...


And just now, I just had a meeting with our team. We talked about, can we afford to increase how many meals we deliver? Our volunteers are exhausted because of the snow; they have jobs and they take time from their precious time with their family to help others... But there's more people who need than we can help. I said, everyone think overnight and we'll Zoom tomorrow to see if we have ideas for how we can provide a few more meals...


...And now, I walked into my office and I saw your email [about an Emergency Grant from Mazon]! Your timing is amazing!"


From Rafi Aaron, Coordinator at The Out of the Cold Meal Program at Saint Luke's United Church (and Spokesperson at The Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness) in downtown Toronto:


"In addition to The Out of the Cold Meal Program at Saint Luke's UC, we have outreach teams bringing hot meals to people in encampments and those sleeping outside. In 2021 we served 9000 meals to residents of encampments. Since the encampment clearings we've been following the migration patterns of those we serve and are now engaged in street outreach.


If you had said to me a year ago that the situation would deteriorate to where we would be engaging in street outreach, I would have laughed. Traditionally people have always come to the Out of the Cold program [where religious spaces like churches and synagogues open their doors as temporary emergency shelters and provide food and other services]; we have never gone to them. But this is the reality now. Our outreach teams are providing hot meals, water, harm reduction supplies, winter sleeping bags and clothing.


I've never seen this much suffering, or so many deaths. Our outreach teams couldn’t find a regular we usually provide meals to who has physical challenges. It turns out that during one of the snow storms he was buried in the snow. A friend of his went looking for him noticed an unusual shape in the snow, and we were able to rescue him.


The shelter system has collapsed and people can't find beds. Frontline workers regularly spend 4 to 5 hours a day on the phone calling and recalling the Central Intake to find someone a bed. In January a pregnant woman was outside for four days because there was no bed for her. In recent weeks three people have died of hypothermia. There was two components - a shelter catastrophe into a pandemic - and then winter fell on both things…


We're providing thousands of meals, but it's not enough. Any relief we can provide is inadequate. The only way to move the needle is through advocacy and pressuring the government to take the necessary steps that will ease suffering and save lives."



To learn more about Mazon's pandemic response, click here.


To learn more about the pandemic and hunger, click here.


To fight hunger and support communities like these: