Kraft Dinner donations are 'reality,' Ontario food bank boss says
An Ottawa neighbourhood food bank's request that donors stop contributing unhealthy foods is just not realistic, the head of the Ontario Association of Food Banks says.
"The reality is it's tough to get quality food," executive director Bill Laidlaw told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday.
He said Ontario food banks simply don't have the food supplies to fill their needy baskets with fresh food, and must use the resources they have available to help people in need.
"The reality is, that's the food we have, and we provide it to them the best we can, and we appreciate it," Laidlaw said.
Laidlaw's comments come after the co-ordinator at an Ottawa-area food bank, Parkdale Food Centre, asked donors to stop contributing "bad" foods like Kraft Dinner and hot dogs. "It is sending a message out to people that you are not worth it, that your health isn't worth as much as my health is worth," co-ordinator Karen Secord said earlier this week.
Food banks sort their donations into food groups and try to give the needy a basket of food that fits the Canada Food Guide requirements, Laidlaw said. However, there just aren't enough nutritious donations to leave lower-quality foods out of those food packages, and items like Kraft Dinner and hot dogs help fill up the basket.
"Up to 50 per cent of our products are nutritious, protein-rich," he said.
Laidlaw said if people can't afford to donate nutritious food and don't want to give Kraft Dinner, food banks also accept financial donations. "If you can give, that's great, but we also like money," he said. Food banks use that money to buy nutritious foods from local grocery stores.
Food banks are meant to help people "bridge the gap" when they fall on hard times, Laidlaw said. But some depend on the food bank for their long-term survival, so food banks can't be turn away food that might help.
"For a lot of our food banks, we have to accept what we're given," Laidlaw said. "We provide them a healthy balance."
Secord has already faced public backlash for her selective donation policy, with some on social media saying they'll stop donating all together, and others telling her she has no right to be picky.
Ottawa Food Bank is turning away KD and food like that. That's stupid. It's better giving people not fully healthy food than starving.— ️In Lehner We Trust (@LehnerFaithful) August 20, 2014
Food bank in Ottawa is no longer accepting Kraft Dinner because it is unhealthy. I'm sure the people who rely on the food bank don't care.— Ankzu (@Ankzu) August 20, 2014