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Volunteers fill boxes with donated food at the Ottawa Food Bank warehouse on Oct. 27.JULIE GORDON/Reuters

The Slaight Family Foundation has donated $7.5-million to six organizations to help combat hunger as a growing number of Canadians face food insecurity amid surging grocery prices.

Some 5.8 million Canadians experience food insecurity, according to Statistics Canada, with inflation driving food prices higher and little relief in sight. Grocery prices are expected to continue to rise in 2023, by between 5 per cent and 7 per cent, Canada’s Food Price Report forecasts.

“Desperately, people need help right now. The winter months are coming and demand is getting worse,” said Terry Smith, program director at the Slaight Family Foundation, pointing to skyrocketing food costs, inadequate wages, precarious employment and a lack of affordable housing.

The foundation has given $3-million to the Daily Bread Food Bank, $2-million to Second Harvest, and $1-million to United Way Greater Toronto, as well as $500,000 each to Community Food Centres Canada, Breakfast Club of Canada and Food Banks Canada.

These organizations will help hundreds of smaller community agencies focused on food insecurity across the country, including remote and Indigenous communities, distribute purchased food and items that might otherwise be wasted.

“These volunteer-run, grassroots food organizations, they’re in church basements or little community centres,” Ms. Smith said. “All these groups have their own specialty and it’s important we support them.”

For Breakfast Club of Canada, which supports school breakfast programs in every province and territory, the donation will help buy food, refrigerators and toasters for hot and cold breakfasts, said Natalie Charette, the organization’s director of major gifts and planned giving.

Today, 580,000 children use the program, up by 80,000 over one year, Ms. Charette said.

“This gives students the energy they need to start their day, to improve their concentration and focus at school,” she said.

The donation also means more food for Community Food Centres Canada’s 15 locations in urban, rural and remote low-income neighbourhoods, from Thunder Bay and Iqaluit, to northern communities in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

Though each centre is different, there are cooking, gardening and kitchen skills programs, and groups for seniors, youth and newcomers to connect.

“They are warm, welcoming spaces where anybody can come and connect with their neighbours and share a meal,” said Juniper Locilento, chief development and communications officer. “There’s great value in bringing people together over good food to improve their physical, mental and social health.”

Like others working for food-focused agencies, Ms. Locilento said demand has risen along with inflation. While she stressed that donations like this are a lifeline, they do not solve the underlying crisis of poverty, which government policies have failed to address.

“When we’re thinking about how to reduce or eliminate food insecurity, it’s obviously not about more food. It’s about income-based solutions,” Ms. Locilento said.

Food insecurity is a barometer of how people are faring amid immense poverty, according to Daniele Zanotti, chief executive officer at United Way Greater Toronto.

“The lines at our food banks are getting longer, increasingly with people working full-time – people who have never accessed a food bank before, as well as those on assistance feeling their dollars are not stretching to fill the fridge,” Mr. Zanotti said.