Many Syrian refugees relying on food banks to feed families


Many recently arrived Syrian refugees are relying on food banks to feed their families, forcing some locations to stock specific Middle Eastern food, enlist the help of translators and extend their operating hours.

Some food banks have seen hundreds of Syrians walk through their doors, while others are anticipating more of a rush when financial support for the newcomers runs out.

A lot of them appear to be government-assisted refugees, who live off a one-time startup sum and ongoing monthly payments equal to provincial social-assistance rates for one year.

For instance, that amounts to about $5,455 for a one-time payment and $1,508 a month for a family of four in Ontario, and $5,440 to start followed by $1,349 a month in British Columbia.

Children under 18 years old also qualify for the child tax benefit, but many families have to wait for up to three months to receive that money, says Gwen Bouchard of the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard in Ottawa.

"I think it is challenging for them and so that's why we're seeing them at the food bank right now."

Ms. Bouchard said privately sponsored Syrian refugees are less likely to show up at a food bank because they have full support from their sponsorship group, which is required to take care of their needs for one year.

She said the Gloucester food bank has served 70 to 80 Syrian families recently, translating to more than 400 people above and beyond those they already help.

Oriole Food Space, a food bank in Toronto, has seen a "tremendous" number of Syrian refugees come in for food parcels over the past couple of months, with an average of six showing up each day they are open, according to manager Daffodil Davis.

Their unique needs are identified as soon as they walk through the door, as many speak little to no English. "Some of the families will bring a translator or will bring maybe a relative … who speaks English," Ms. Davis said. "We do have our own translator here that helps to navigate the process."

Re-posted from THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Michelke Zilio, Parliamentary Affairs Reporter


Published April 10, 2016

Updated May 16, 2018

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