National Newswatch

Montrealers are leaving non-perishable items on their doorsteps on Sunday as part of a city-wide food drive to help people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the "September 13th Miracle" co-organizers, Gillian Aitken, said the campaign is working in collaboration with more than 30 food banks across Montreal.

More than 2,000 volunteers will go door-to-door to collect the donations and deliver them to the food banks, Aitken said.

"It's been amazing," she said in an interview Sunday, about the community's response. "I'm surprised at how enthusiastic people have been about the idea."

Aitken said the Montreal campaign drew inspiration from similar food drives that took place in Ontario and the Northwest Territories this summer.

"The idea has been to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible — safely during COVID — to participate in this," she said.

Community groups say the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in demand for food and other types of support.

"The need has grown, definitely," said Linda Hachey, executive director of the Mile End Community Mission, one of the Montreal group's participating in the food drive.

Hachey said about 60 people would get groceries from the group's weekly food bank before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, that number has nearly doubled to more than 100 clients per week.

She said her organization serves people living in chronic poverty, elderly Montrealers, newcomers to Canada, and individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

The food drive, she said, would help "replenish our shelves and cupboards" to meet this increased demand for help.

"We don't have to wait always for government or this or that. We can do it ourselves and it's just so empowering," Hachey said.

Aitken said about 2,500 people had registered online by Sunday morning to say they would be donating food as part of the food drive.

When they register, people share their addresses with volunteers, who then will pick up the items from peoples' front porches or apartment building lobbies.

But volunteers will also be scouring neighbourhoods for donations that were not registered in advance — so the number could be higher.

"To be collecting food from your neighbours in your boroughs, to see that generosity ... we want people to feel inspired," Aitken said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2020.

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, The Canadian Press

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