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Bouffe Pontiac experiencing unprecedented demand

Camilla Faragalli
Campbell’s bay Dec. 15, 2023
The demand for food from local food bank Bouffe Pontiac is up this year, while monetary donations to the organization are down from previous years.
“Every year, the need is greatest in November and December,” said Kim Laroche, who has been director of the organization since 2018.
“But this year, I’m finding that it’s greater than it has been in all the other years,” she said, citing rising grocery prices due to inflation as the primary reason for the increase in demand.
“Fruits and vegetables are just unaffordable, and meat? Forget it,” she said.
While it is too soon to tabulate the organization’s data for the whole year, Laroche said the team at Bouffe Pontiac prepared 280 Christmas food baskets this year, up from the 230 they normally make.
Laroche said that more than ever, people working minimum-wage jobs frequently come “knocking at the door.”
“They actually match our criteria,” she said, explaining that the food bank’s services are reserved for clients earning below a certain income threshold.
Laroche said she and her coworkers have also noticed a recent uptick in younger clients.
“A lot of students have been coming in lately,” she said, noting people as young as 16 are often requesting the food bank’s assistance.
‘Less to spare’
In addition to providing monthly or bi-monthly food baskets to registered clients, Bouffe Pontiac offers collective kitchens, collective gardens during the summer months and a free thrift-shop that is entirely volunteer-run.
The organization, which began in 2006, also organizes an annual holiday food drive to provide Christmas baskets to families in need.
While Laroche said the outcome of this year’s holiday drive was impressive, it fell short of the amount raised last year.
Monetary donations for 2023 amounted to just over $10,000, while in 2022 the same drive raised around $12,700.
“We have an increase in demand, but everybody else in the community is also struggling more,” she said.
“It’s not that people are less generous [this year], they just have less to spare.”
Laroche said Bouffe Pontiac spends the majority of the monetary donations it receives on purchasing food. As of the end of November, the organization had spent around $60,000 on purchasing groceries in the past year alone.
“We’re trying to find new ways to get different donors”, she said, noting that Bouffe Pontiac now has an Amazon wishlist.
Laroche was keen on stressing the importance of the food bank’s mission.
“In life, if you don’t eat, if your need to be fed isn’t responded to, all the rest doesn’t go well,” she said.
“You can’t function well at work if you don’t eat properly, kids can’t learn properly . . . Food is the foundation.”
More than food
Sandrine Paquette of Campbell’s Bay has been a client at Bouffe Pontiac since it first opened in 2006.
Paquette said she has always been impressed by how friendly the organization’s employees are.

“I felt really comfortable with them, and I think it’s very generous, what they’re doing,” she said.
Paquette, who recently began working as an employee of Bouffe Pontiac herself, said she was struck to learn how many people needed the food bank services.
“I didn’t know there were that many families that needed the same thing that I did,” she said.
“I was in need, they are in need and I know how they feel,” she added. “It’s a good thing that Bouffe Pontiac is here to support.”
Paquette said that with the additional income from her new position, she has been able to better support her family of four, and has had to rely less on the food services provided by her employer.
“I‘m happy that now I’m working here and I can do what they did for me, for someone else,” she said.
According to Laroche, many clients feel ashamed when they first open a file with the organization.
“They often feel like they are the only ones,” she said. “When they realize they’re not alone in their situation, they’re shocked.”
“A lot of people think that as a food bank, we just provide food, but it goes way beyond that.”
Laroche said that for many clients, the food bank also provided a place to socialize.
“A lot of our clients are isolated. For many of them it’s a place to come see somebody that month. The fact that we can sit with them for five minutes just to talk, it makes a difference,” she said.
“And I like making a difference.”

Bouffe Pontiac employees (from left) Isabelle Levesque, Kim Laroche and Sandrine Paquette agree that the demand at the Campbell’s Bay food bank is greater this year than it ever has been.

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