Saturday, 19 December 2020

Ottawa's pet food bank: Ottawa Paw Pantry provides food for fur-families in need

Feeding Ottawa's fur-families: Ottawa Paw Pantry is dedicated to supporting community pets in need

Ottawa's pet food bank: Ottawa Paw Pantry provides food for fur-families in need


Food banks have been a lifeline for people struggling to make ends meet. I'm not immune to struggle- I have used the services of the Food Bank. That's why donating to and supporting local food banks has been a passion of mine. But what about our pets? They're family and we are responsible for feeding them, but sometimes we need help. In Ottawa there is a non-profit that has been dedicated to supporting fur-families in need. 


Ottawa Paw Pantry is a registered charity that provides pet food assistance to qualifying struggling pet owners. The team at Ottawa Paw Pantry knows how important pets are and that they are valued members of the family. With many people living paycheck to paycheck or on a fixed income, especially during Covid-19, a helping paw can go a long way. Even those who may have lived their entire lives making ends meet can have unexpected hardships, like job loss or illness, and need a little extra help feeding their family. Ottawa Paw Pantry relies 100% on donations from the community. I did a Q&A session with Laura Lamarche, creator of Ottawa Paw Pantry, to learn more about their story and efforts to support pets in the community.

Ottawa's pet food bank: Ottawa Paw Pantry provides food for fur-families in need


Q: How did Ottawa Paw Pantry come to be? Tell me a little about your journey.

A: About 5 years ago, a few friends and I who had been involved in dog rescue had started wondering what we might be able to do to prevent dogs from making it to the shelters. Through assessments, we were seeing that a lot of animals were being relinquished by their owners and we could only assume that one of the contributing factors had to be financials. We thought "what's the step before that?" and that's where the idea of a pet food bank came to be. We took a few months to come up with the logistics plan, research what other cities were doing, and the Ottawa Paw Pantry was born in April, 2016.


Q: How many animals (or community members) have you helped?

A: We've helped over 500 families and their pets in Ottawa. We also work closely with rescues in the city and offer excess food, or specific diets (for example puppy food) when we don't have clients who are in immediate need. Additionally, we supply organizations like Operation Come Home and Highjinx when our food supply allows us, to help spread the availability.

Ottawa's pet food bank: Ottawa Paw Pantry provides food for fur-families in need


Q: How does someone apply or qualify for assistance?

A: Unfortunately, we had to close our waitlist as we work on a sustainable food supply and we are working hard to reverse this. But, in traditional times, a person can apply on our website through a form and many of them learn of our service through one of our community resource centre partners. We sometimes get referrals directly from those centres and work with them to get things moved along. The face of our client can vary drastically, it may be someone who is on social assistance or an individual working a minimum-wage job; some are temporary clients as they navigate a situation and others have been clients for longer periods. 


Q: During the pandemic, what is the best way someone can donate to you?

A: It has been interesting! Most of our previous drop off locations are still operating and can accept food donations in person (dry/moist food/treats). Donations do need to be in the original package- ideally unopened for storage and longevity purposes- and must have their expiry date visible. We've also launched our annual holiday food drive, but this year it's gone virtual! Bowlful of Heart allows people to add items to a cart and we can then work with some of the local pet stores to purchase items at discounted rates.

Ottawa's pet food bank: Ottawa Paw Pantry provides food for fur-families in need


Q: Are there any specific items you need?

A: We are always looking for dry and moist cat and dog food and treats - it seems as though we get more dog food than cat food, so I would say there is a bit of a higher urgency for cat food.


Q: Are you doing any holiday initiatives/events/campaigns you would like me to promote?

A: Bowlful of Heart and our monthly donor programs are the two programs we are really focused on right now. The monthly donor program allows individuals to set up a donation that gives all year round and they are issued a tax receipt at the end of the year- everyone wins!


CLICK HERE to learn more about the amazing work Ottawa Paw Pantry does and make a donation to pets in need. 

Ottawa's pet food bank: Ottawa Paw Pantry provides food for fur-families in need


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