When Covid-19 first impacted our communities there was a huge spike in the demand at food banks as many people suddenly found themselves with reduced work, or no work at all. The Federal and Provincial governments provided some immediate aid and we coordinated a local fund-raising campaign to which the response was generous. The need is still great and now is the time to revisit this issue.
We have all had to face restrictions and make some sacrifices during this crisis and so-called normal life seems to be a long time ago. We may be becoming numb to the demands of our new normal and to the changes we have had to make. One sacrifice that no one should have to make is to go without food. Even as the province opens up, as travel increases, as more people get back to work, the demand at food banks remains high. We have not solved the problem of food insecurity and we still need those in the community who can, to support food banks with cash donations.
When the SLRD first appealed to the community to “Feed the Need”, I, along with my neighbours, donated. I realize now that a one-time donation is not enough. On the website for the Sea to Sky Community Services, you can donate using your credit card and you can check the box which indicates that the same donation can be collected on a monthly basis. Rather than a one-time donation, please consider a monthly donation, which helps to provide some certainly of cash flow, which allows food bank administrators to plan the purchase of necessary items, especially fresh produce. And if food banks have the cash to buy fresh food, they can do so locally, which helps our farmers.
Food bank volunteers will tell you that many of their clients are not unemployed, they are working but still unable to provide adequately for their families. We hear that many people are just one paycheque away from needing the food bank: COVID-19 has proved this to be true in a very emphatic manner. The Provincial Government is encouraging local governments to propose ways in which we cannot just return to what we were doing but to find better ways of doing things. One enormous challenge we have as a society is this issue of food insecurity. The pandemic has exacerbated this issue, but it also gives us an opportunity to think about, and plan for, the changes we can make so that food is available at affordable prices to everyone in our region. How can we alter the concept of a food bank so that it becomes a shared resource in the community, a place for renewal and hope rather than a refuge for despair?
Food banks started in the late 1980s as a temporary solution to a sudden downturn in the economy. What happened? We now see food banks as a permanent and necessary component of our social security net. We need to support the work of our food banks at this time but we should also step back and ask some important questions about better solutions for dealing with food insecurity. Let’s use our imaginations and try to move from what exists today to a better solution in the ‘new normal’.
Chair, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District