Holiday Food Assistance
Social community organizations are aware that the Holiday season can be especially stressful and financially difficult, and this is why they have long been offering additional services to support individuals and families through these times. Christmas baskets may be the oldest and best known of those services, probably because organizations that provide them demonstrate an impressive ability to adapt to the population’s ever-evolving needs.
Newer types of assistance are now in existence besides the traditional food baskets prepared by a dedicated army of volunteers. In order that Christmas may be a time of celebration, here is an overview of resources available this year.
Christmas baskets help a large number of families every year. Registered families receive a large box containing non-perishable food, hygiene products and more.
- How to apply: interested persons should contact the organizations that serve their area and register on the list. Some organizations require a face-to-face meeting to assess the person’s family and financial situation. Others may ask that one becomes a member of their organization in order to access services. If you have received food assistance during the year, do not hesitate to inquire with the organization you received assistance from; they might have Christmas baskets reserved to their beneficiaries.
- Documents to be supplied: some organizations require a proof of income and a proof of residence, or family members’ health insurance cards.
- Cost: most baskets are free, but some organizations ask for a fee between $5 and $20. The cost may also vary according to the number of persons in the family, and some organizations may ask for membership fees.
- Registration period: largely October 1st to November 30th. Some organizations accept requests in September, and others, like Sun Youth, welcome applications until Christmas.
- Distribution period: organizations hand out baskets during the 3 last weeks of December.
N.B. Some organizations choose to provide checks or vouchers instead of regular baskets, but application and distribution procedures are the same.
Christmas sharing stores
Sharing stores is an alternative food assistance option available for the Holiday season. Instead of receiving a pre-assembled basket, eligible families are invited to visit a temporary community grocery store that is put together specifically for the occasion, and where they can choose the foods they want. Some rules are usually in place there in order to ensure the smooth running of the sharing store and the greatest possible equity.
- How to apply: interested individuals and families should call the organizations serving their area.
- Documents to be supplied: a proof of residence, a proof of income and family members’ identity cards are usually required.
- Cost: instead of the regular price, items are at 10% of the usual cost and the maximum total contribution is often $10 or $15.
- Registration period: it varies depending on each organization, but most often takes place during the months of October and November. Since quantities are limited and the demand is high, it is preferable to apply early in order to have a place.
- Distribution period: depending on the organization, but most often during the 3 last weeks of December.
Last year, according to Regroupement Partage, the association gathering participating organizations on the Island of Montréal, over 5,300 families benefited from a sharing store. 
During the holidays, in addition to food assistance services, some organizations offer Christmas activities. Some are free and others have a minimal cost. They are a good opportunity to share a warm meal, to break the isolation or to participate in family activities. These events take place in many towns and neighbourhoods and may allow to make valuable connections. Besides the community meals and dances for which one needs to register in advance, organizations such as Noël dans le Parc organize activities and shows that are open to all.