For the past 16 years, OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research Group) has been running a Food Cupboard for Trent University students and Peterborough community members to provide access to emergency food. For years a community has been building at the Food Cupboard and it has flourished into a space where you can always find not only food, but conversation, support and laughter.
It is with great sadness that OPIRG has announced that on Saturday October 17th, the doors of the Food Cupboard will be closing. OPIRG is forever thankful and grateful to the volunteers, community members and students. These individuals have put so much work and energy into trying to create an anti-oppressive Food Cupboard for our community. Today, OPIRG does not have the structural or financial capacity to maintain the growing operation of the Food Cupboard. Since 2008 the use of the food cupboard has increased by over 300% and is now the third largest food bank in Peterborough. No one expected the small OPIRG food cupboard to grow to such size and over the past three years.
Volunteers, board and staff have been working extremely hard to try and meet the needs of the Food Cupboard program. Despite the continuous effort, limited access to funding and resources, the pursuit of meeting the needs of a large food bank have been unsuccessful. The basement of a heritage building is not suitable for such a food bank: it is physically inaccessible for some people.There is inadequate space for it to be safe for our community, and resources such as fridges and freezers are lacking. It is well known that this funding and resource strain is a common challenge faced by local organizations.
This challenge is a product of the same systems of neo-liberal capitalism that have seen a drastic increase in wealth and income inequality, poverty and thus food banks. During the summer of 2013, the Food Cupboard went under an internal evaluation in response to skyrocketing demand and the lack in capacity to expand in both space and hours of operation along with the increasing clarity of the unsustainability of a food bank system. Two years after this review was completed, the short-term goals have largely been accomplished. However, the long-term goals of a new and sustainable space, supportive programming, waste management resources and long term transportation, have proven to require a large amount of funding and resources which are outside the capacity of OPIRG.
From this a review a Food Cupboard Steering Collective (FCSC) was established and since the fall of 2014. The FCSC began looking into the possibility of the food cupboard separating from OPIRG and becoming its own entity. The FCSC remains very dedicated to the search for funding which will allow a separate food bank to be opened, filling the gap left by the closure of the Food Cupboard. OPIRG will continue to focus on food justice, security and sovereignty. To end the prevalent crisis of poverty and inequality and the unsustainability of our food system, there will need to be a wave of force from society to create a paradigm shift that acknowledges poverty, inequality and hunger as a structural failure and a political issue.
OPIRG intends to continue being a part of this force, with more focus on advocating for structural change and bringing attention to the root causes of hunger and poverty.