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'It's not easy': Demand increasing for Harvest Manitoba services, newcomers impacted the most

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Harvest Manitoba is seeing a major spike in demand for its services, saying the number of people needing help has never been higher.

The reasons for the increase is inflation and the number of new Manitobans who have settled in the province after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

"The demand has never been higher," said Meaghan Erbus with Harvest Manitoba.

According to new data, food bank usage is up 150 per cent since 2019 and it's jumped 30 per cent in the past year alone. As well, 40 per cent of Harvest Manitoba clients are employed, a 66 per cent increase from 2022.

"The cost of living is up. So grocery costs, all of the items that we would purchase just to meet our brief basic needs are those items that are increased and have affected people's lives."

The higher cost of food is adding to the burden of new Canadians and Ukrainian refugees in particular.

Harvest found that 50 per cent of first-time food bank clients in Winnipeg are displaced Ukrainians.

"It's not easy. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes," said Joanne Lewandowsky, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Manitoba.

She says Ukrainian fleeing the war are facing major challenges getting by. Many are single mothers with husbands on the front line. Language is an issue, as well as lack of accreditation and most are coming to the province with just a single suitcase.

"They come here and they have a month in the hotel and then they're on their own."

The Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations says because the Ukrainian newcomers are considered temporary residents, they don't qualify for the rent assist program available for other low income residents.

"Because they're not eligible for that program, they're not able to have that additional money towards their rent and I think that's a factor in the food bank," said Emily Halldorson, the Ukraine response coordinator with the association.

More than 20,000 Ukrainians have settled across Manitoba in the last year alone and another 7,000 are anticipated to come here by the end of March, meaning the need for help from places like Harvest Manitoba is not likely going to decrease in the near future.

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