Over half of first-time food bank users are displaced Ukrainians: Report
Posted November 30, 2023 2:11 pm.
Last Updated November 30, 2023 10:40 pm.
Over 50 per cent of first-time food bank users in Winnipeg are displaced Ukrainians fleeing their homes due to Russia’s war in that country, according to Harvest Manitoba’s latest annual report.
Food bank usage continues to skyrocket across Manitoba, as more than 50,000 people went to a food bank in the province every month this year – a 30 per cent increase from 2022, and an increase of 150 per cent from 2019.
“Year over year, we are seeing more folks accessing food banks,” said Meaghan Erbus, the Director of Network, Advocacy and Education at Harvest Manitoba.
Harvest Manitoba’s report, called Harvest Voices, found one in four people using the food bank was a newcomer to Canada – and 79 per cent of those people arrived from Ukraine.
“You have nothing once you have left your country. You come to a new place, and you need things that you left behind, like food, furniture, and other things. On top of the food and all the other services that folks need, we had to lean on community to ensure that we could provide that.”
Since the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine in February 2022, nearly 25,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Manitoba – with the possibility of another 7,000 newcomers coming between now and the end of March.
Joanne Lewandowsky from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Manitoba Branch says there is a food bank for newcomers every Saturday morning at UNF Hall on Main Street.
“We are seeing a big influx of Ukrainian newcomers resorting to our food banks,” said Lewandowsky.
“It breaks my heart to see these adults with babies in carriages and little children standing outside this venue waiting to get in.”
On average, Lewandowsky says they feed dozens of people who are registered in the food bank every week, including those who show up at the door. But she says inflation, job security, and language skills are all reasons Ukrainian newcomers are heading to the food banks.
“We’re seeing that these people are trying to be self-sufficient. A lot of them have little businesses at home. They are making food and making crafts,” said Lewandowsky.
Mark Myrowich started helping Ukrainians find jobs in Manitoba as soon as they started arriving. He began hireukrainian.ca in 2022 and has helped many Ukrainians find jobs across the province – who continue to seek jobs.
“When they do get into your business, it’s a game-changer. It’s been a game-changer for my manufacturing business, especially in rural Manitoba, to have these people here,” said Myrowich.