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Extend a helping hand, donate to Saturday's Food Blitz

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The Helping Hand Food Bank's annual fall Door to Door Food Blitz happens Saturday, Oct. 1st, from 10 a.m. to approximately 11 a.m.

With less than a week to go, they are spreading the word in Tillsonburg through signage - almost 70 signs have been placed around town - and any other source available.

"What you see is what we have," said Joan Clarkson, coordinator. "We're really down... really down financially and in food."

The food bank, which receives donations throughout year, depends on the Food Blitz for the majority of its food. Last year they collected almost 20,000 pounds in just one day. A fantastic amount of food, she said, but most of it has been handed out over the past year. Helping Hand Food Bank serves over 3,500 people each year, and over 40 per cent are children.

On Saturday, they hope to replenish their stock and fill their shelves.

"I try to remember, whenever we need something it just comes in the door... it just does," said Clarkson, thankful for the generous Food Blitz donations, and the ongoing fall food drive during the months of October, November and December, and even as recent as last week.

"Between now and Christmas is when we get the majority of our cash donations. And that makes a big difference. That's what keeps us going.

"When I do the shopping, I buy 35 dozen eggs a week, but this week I'm getting 45 dozen - hopefully - free from the Egg Board. They give that to us three or four times a year. Milk, I get 70 litres a month. Gary Godelie, he keeps me in potatoes all winter. Nightingales Farms, they donated that cart full of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes... but that will end in a couple weeks when the season is over.

"I went out to M&R Orchards yesterday, God bless them. Every week three bushels of apples. Monika (Richter) is amazing, she's so generous. And the apples were good, just picked! So I put them out a bushel at a time, and I let them take a reasonable amount each. There's no point in me giving four apples to someone who's not going to eat them. So if I put them out front, people will take them if they want them.

"Have you ever tried M&R's ice cream?" Clarkson asked as an aside. "It's so good.

"A lady was just in and said, 'could you use some red peppers?' I never say no. She gave me two bags of them."

Through the winter months she buys fresh vegetables - carrots, onions, and cabbage, on sale. And fresh meat, on sale, which they distribute frozen.

"I have to (look for sales), because that's just about the only way I can afford it. I think our clients are doing the same, they're looking for deals."

On average, she spends about $15,000 per year on fresh food and necessary supplies to supplement the non-perishable food items.

"But we haven't had as much money in lately," she said, noting cash funds were also low as of last Tuesday. "I only have $23 left in my fund for buying milk and eggs."

She spends significant amounts at grocery stores, but she also gets back significant donations from local food stores, including Sobeys, Walmart, Metro and Zehrs.

"This week I got 112 pounds of bread from Metro. Another store gave me 154 pounds - it's here, see all these boxes? And Sobeys, too. And Sobeys has that wonderful bag that they pack - they do that all year round, it's wonderful. The local stores are really giving back."

FOOD BLITZ

On Saturday, Oct. 1st, residents of Tillsonburg are being asked to help the local food bank. If you wish to contribute, place your food donation in a visible spot on your front step. Volunteers will begin to pick up food at 10 a.m.

If anyone tries to take your food before 10 a.m., Clarkson noted, they are NOT food bank volunteers.

Most needed items include - canned fish, meats and stews; peanut butter and jam; children's school snacks (think nutritious); crackers and cookies; canned vegetables and fruit; spaghetti sauce and canned tomatoes; juice (boxes or cans); canned kidney beans; rice; mushroom soup; laundry and dish soap; and personal hygiene products.

A new items on their 'most needed list', she said, is mushroom soup, used for casserole kits.

"When they have sales, it's usually tomato, chicken noodle and mushroom soup, and a lot of people grab the tomato soup," Clarkson noted. "We have a lot of tomato soup."

The same theory applies to Kraft Dinner, which in typical years overflows their storage boxes.

"Actually, we'll be out of KD this week," she smiled.

Sixteen teams of three - an adult driver and two youth volunteers - will be collecting the food Saturday.

High school volunteers are also needed, she added.

"There's never too many. I do need the help... I know I need the help."

Domino's Pizza in Tillsonburg will donate pizza for lunch.

"I was talking to Will (Prichard) and he's going to be sending down pizzas. I told him how many volunteers and he said between 25-30 pizzas. That's very generous of him."

If you need more information on Saturday's Food Blitz, contact Clarkson at 519-688-3434.

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