From the Editor: Donating during the holidays now is more important than ever

Families around the world will struggle this Christmas, but we can make it easier for them

(Kristen Frier)

COVID-19 brought a huge wave of unemployment this year, causing families around the world to experience food and income insecurity, which is why this is the best time to donate what you can to people who need it the most.

This holiday season will be different. Some families won’t have the luxury of buying endless gifts for their households, and individuals around the world won’t have the ability to sit around a dining table with their family and friends to eat turkey or ham.

Sixteen per cent of surveyed Canadians placed food insecurity as their top pandemic issue, stating that they can’t afford good quality groceries, a recent Angus Reid survey found. Similarly, the total amount of layoff or lost hours at work due to COVID-19 is 31 per cent among surveyed groups.

Before the pandemic, 4.5 million households in Canada were food insecure. That number has risen by 39 per cent in the first two months of the pandemic, affecting one in seven people, including 12.4 per cent of British Columbians who say they are experiencing food insecurity.

This is because the pandemic has made it difficult for individuals to access foods that are necessary for their health, a report by Canada Without Poverty finds. It adds that the pandemic has made it difficult to access cultural foods and has led people to have “insufficient funds to make bulk purchases resulting in more grocery store visits and increased exposure to COVID-19.”

Income insecurity is one of the root causes of food insecurity. Even in 2016, “20% of work in Vancouver are in low income, which means 1 in 5 people in Vancouver are experiencing poverty,” a University of British Columbia report on COVID-19 and people in poverty found.

Now more than ever, we need to think back on the meaning of Christmas. It isn’t about the presents or the food. Instead, it’s about being selfless and giving what you can to others who are struggling to get a meal, clothes, or furniture for their home.

Luckily there are three donating sites around the Lower Mainland, which specifically focus on food, clothing, and furniture. These are the Surrey Food Bank, Dress for Success Vancouver, and Habitat for Humanity.

Surrey Food Bank (wiki.commons)

The Surrey Food Bank serves Surrey and North Delta. It accepts monetary donations or food from their “top eight most needed food items.” These items include canned protein, canned fruit, canned vegetables, meals in a tin like pork and beans or stew, whole grain rice, pasta and pasta sauce, healthy canned soups, and large cans of baby formula for families.

They also encourage individuals to donate baby items to make their “tiny bundles” of powdered baby formula, large size diapers, cereal for babies older than six months. And baby jar food that contains fruits and vegetables.

Dress for Success Vancouver is an organization that empowers women to go into the workforce by providing professional attire for them to wear during job interviews or work-related events. Aside from clothing, the organization also provides career services and skill development programs.

The organization has several monetary donation packages. However, it also accepts clothing donations such as “modern business suits and blazers, modern and professional pants, skirts and dresses, scarves, jewelry, handbags, professional outerwear, professional footwear, unopened nylons and undergarments, and unopened makeup and cosmetics.”

They do not accept “casual clothing, items older than 3 years old, items in need of cleaning or repair, men’s clothing, and hangers.”

Like the Surrey Food Bank and Dress for Success Vancouver, Habitat for Humanity is a volunteer and community-led organization that focuses on building affordable housing and breaking the cycle of poverty.

They accept donations in the areas of appliances, cabinets, flooring, furniture, insulation, landscaping and outdoor furniture, mirrors, roofing, home décor, painting supplies, heating and cooling, lighting and electrical, plumbing, windows and doors.

They also have free curbside pick-up for donations, and heavy items for at-home pick-up for which they charge a fee.

This holiday season is an opportunity for us to be thankful for what we have while giving away what we can to people who had a rough year. Let’s make it easier for them.