Province evaluates assistance to food banks

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Charlotte County – New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that provides direct funding to food banks, and this year a new program, the Community Food Resource Support Program, was introduced.

An evaluation committee was created to assess grant applications, and funding was allocated to each applicant based on New Brunswick’s food insecurity statistics, the Food Banks Canada Hunger Count, and additional information provided by each food bank to demonstrate their need, explained Department of Social Development communications officer, Anne Mooers.

The grant program was reviewed in collaboration with the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks, in response to their concerns that the previous program was not equal, and not transparent enough.

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Every food bank received at least 90 per cent of the funding they requested. The program was redesigned with changes to criteria, and the review process to ensure that funding is available to all eligible food banks, and that it will respond to the individual circumstances of food banks on an annual basis.
A food bank resource guide was distributed to every food bank and soup kitchen in the province earlier this year, which includes other sources of potential funding that can be explored.

In addition to the Community Food Resource Support Program, the department also supports food banks and other community partners by investing in initiatives to support food security. Some of these, such as the Community Food Action Grant and Regional Wellness Grants, are also open to food banks.
The Department of Social Development, and the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks started the review of the food bank program in 2015, and application forms for the new grant program were provided to food banks early this year.

Sarah Norman, coordinator of the St. George and area food bank, said she appreciates how this form of funding is now being looked at because, over the years that food banks have been accessing it, the amount they received has not changed.

“Now 20 years later, we could use more money. We have created more programs, and done a lot of outreach. Also, a lot of the smaller food banks were not allowed to apply. They certainly have needs like other food banks.

“We have been asking for an increase for many years, and saying why we needed it. We were told it was under review. They truly have taken a look at it, and they worked really hard with the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks.
“They wanted those food banks which were never eligible to apply to be allowed to apply. I think it is going to take time. We were told it will be a three year process to get where they would like it to be.”

While the amounts received by the majority of food banks has not change – St. George receives a little more than $12,000 – several, which have never received funding before, have now received some.

Donna Linton, coordinator of the Volunteer Centre of Charlotte County, which operates the St. Stephen food bank, said the organization has been incorporated since 1982, and has been operating the food bank since the 1990s.
She said they have been receiving $30,000 for 30 years, but their annual operating budget is just under $250,000, which covers two staff, rent, utilities, insurance, and workers’ compensation fees, plus they spend $60,000 a year on food.

“If it were not for generous donations, we would not get by. We also do school supplies, and completed 800 income tax returns for people, so we are a little bit more than a food bank.
“St. George has about 100 families a month, and I do about 200 families a month. I think the funding should be based on a formula, or the size of the community.”
Linton said Food Banks Canada is trying to push for a tax credit for farmers who provide fresh produce for food banks.

“If I could promise a tax receipt, we could have fresh vegetables. Farmers could grow for us, and maximize their space. That is something the federal government could do for us.”
The Grand Manan food bank, run by volunteers from Action Ministries out of the basement of the Emmanuel Family Church, has been in operation for more than 20 years, said volunteer Tammy Brown, and this is the first time it has received a grant from the province.

“We were so impressed and so thankful. We have never got funding before. We applied for a little over $9000, and that is what we received.”
She said the food bank serves between 20 and 25 families each month, and numbers have gone down in the last three years, which is wonderful.
The funding, said Brown, will be used to enlarge the food bank, and make it more compatible for what they need. Currently, she said they have about 16 volunteers, and the food bank is open twice a week.

Unfortunately for the food bank on Deer Island, volunteer Joyce Stuart said it is not eligible for provincial funding, as it does not have a charitable number.
“It takes about nine months to get one, and it is expensive. First you have to get incorporated, and then apply to get a charitable number. They did come and visit us, and we did get a cheque for $300 from the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks.”

The number of families the island food banks helps varies, said Stuart, from as many as 17 to as little as three, but volunteers have to be ready for however many show up.
The food bank is operated by about 10 volunteers out of the island’s community centre (the former credit union building,) and is open one day a week for those who need assistance.

“If they can’t pick up we will deliver to them. We need a refrigerator, and we are going to need freezers but, without us having a charitable number, we can’t apply for funding.”