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New west end food bank hopes to help families, individuals facing food insecurity

The Pantry Ottawa, located on Merivale Road, hopes to serve at least 20 to 50 families every month.
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(stock photo)

It's not every day someone decides to create a food bank to ensure everyone gets access to meals.

The initiative started in 2020 at the downtown Ottawa church Kingdom Pursuit Centre and started community outreach that way.

But over time, its organizers found that because of its location downtown, it wasn't adequate to create a food bank at that time. It was also too small, especially if more volunteers were to join.

So, it was time for LaToya Kanza to do some research and figure out how to expand — or at least move — her location.

Kanza, who is the facilitator of The Pantry Ottawa and co-pastor at the Kingdom Pursuit Centre, had to do research which also meant consulting with other food banks in the city, including the Ottawa Food Bank, but there was something else she realized.

"When we did our research and went to go visit the local food banks, we realized that they were only able to supply food for one week out of the entire month," she explained to CityNews. "There's a high need right now, especially with the recent events that happened globally through the pandemic and the past three years, and the numbers specifically in our area have gone up tremendously."  

Even as there is a high demand amongst food banks in Ottawa, this allowed her to catapult her initiative even further. But it hasn't been without its challenges. 

"So, it definitely was not easy," she said. "We anticipated it taking us much longer in terms of getting donations, to be honest, but we were really were blessed because within two weeks we were able to have at least five shelves full of food." 

The goal with The Pantry Ottawa, Kanza said, is to serve 20 to 50 families a month, but it does depend on how many families are using their food bank at a time.

She added that many grocery stores in the area donated gift cards, while some donated food items. The congregation at the church also contributed early on. 

The Pantry Ottawa currently has about 35 volunteer staff helping out, but Kanza said there are more applications to sort through in the coming days. 

Although it just launched, collaborating with other grocery stores — as many food banks are currently doing — is something Kanza would like to do in the future. Cooking daily fresh meals is also something that is under consideration. 

But for now, she said she hopes she can serve as many families as possible but also build personal relationships with those families depending on their location.

Kanza said individuals are also welcome to make donations through The Pantry Ottawa's website. Its food bank is open every Sunday according to its Facebook Page. 

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