Funding for food banks is uncertain in Windsor-Essex

Some agencies in Windsor are facing uncertainty as United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex prepares to restructure its funding agreements in March 2020.

In September 2018 United Way announced it was shifting toward a ‘cradle to career’ vision in collaboration with 50 other city organizations. United Way said the new vision will focus on children during pregnancy, through prenatal health for mothers all the way through to landing their first job as a young adult.

“This is about equity. If we really want to give these young people an opportunity to succeed and be independent as adults we have to give them more to level the playing field,” said Lorraine Goddard, CEO of United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County .

Goddard said United Way is negotiating funding with the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association in the new year.

“The food bank has limitations in its present form,” said Goddard, adding that when the food bank was first designed decades ago it was intended as a short-term solution.

“Now we have people who are very dependent all year long on food banks so we need to tackle that problem in a new way,” said Goddard. “We need to figure out how we can actually create a solution that helps people not need food banks in our community.”

Lorraine Goddard says United Way’s new vision will focus on children who need support to become successful. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

While United Way tries to design a new approach to hunger in Windsor-Essex, food banks are still operating and feeding hundreds on a daily basis — and the lack of secure funding has those organizers worried.

Drouillard Place has a food bank that received approximately $33,500 from United Way each year for three decades. The money was used to hire two part-time staff, and to use a work van for picking up and delivering food. Right now that food banks serves 150 families. These families include people of all ages with 20 or so showing up a day looking for food.

The funding could be cut off when the contract with United Way runs out in March 2020.

“It’s disheartening because there is such a need,” said Kate Gibb, executive director of Drouillard Place. “It’s not a large sum of money but it is to us … It’s a big pocket of money that will be missed. We will be looking for donors and sponsors to help pick up that load.”

Major Paul Rideout is with the Salvation Army Windsor Center of Hope. He was working the Red Kettle Christmas Campaign at Walmart on Tecumseh Road East. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Meanwhile the Salvation Army, which has been in Windsor since 1886, is giving an extra push on its kettle campaign this month to make up the $40,000 it could lose when United Way pulls the plug.

“We’re driving hard the kettle campaign this year. We’ve raised our goal to $350,000,” said Major Paul Rideout. But the campaign is more than halfway over and the kettles have only pulled in $180,000 so far.

“I’m hopeful and optimistic based on history but who knows,” said Rideout. “We will get as close as we can. We will ring the bells until we can’t ring them no more.”

Both Drouillard Place and the Salvation Army said they were well aware United Way was changing its strategy and that funding cuts could happen, but they still have families turning up at the door looking for food.

Drouillard Place is located in Ford City in Windsor. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Rideout said the shift United Way is making to focus on children is important, but it falls outside what the Salvation Army does. However, that is exactly the population of Drouillard Place is trying to serve, especially with its after school program which helps 45 children at night with literacy and homework. But since that program operates outside of the United Way’s new target areas of downtown, west Windsor and Leamington, the program likely won’t qualify for it’s annual amount of about $41,200 it received in previous years.

“We’ve been investing in Ford City for a long time and we actually consider it a success that Ford City didn’t end up being so far behind that they’ve actually progressed,” said Goddard. “We see Drouillard Place in particular as having a lot of strengths that we hope to be able to leverage as we begin to develop the cradle to career strategy.”

Gibb said she won’t be closing the after school program if she can help it.

“We firmly believe the way to end poverty is through education,” said Gibb.

But after 30 years or so of that program, it could be in jeopardy of closing with the funding cuts.

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