Food Banks BC has received $15-million in new funding from the Province of B.C.
This funding will help local food banks across the province meet the rising demand for their services and fund rapid access to food in emergency situations such as wildfires and floods. Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, said this funding is part of a historic $200-million investment in B.C.’s food supply that was announced in March 2023.
“We all want people to have the support and services they need to get healthy, nutritious food. Global inflation has hit people hard, and the rising cost of food is especially challenging,” Malcolmson said. “Our new $15 million funding will help food banks meet rising demand and fund rapid access to food in emergencies like wildfires.”
Food insecurity has increased due to inflation, supply-chain issues, and climate emergencies, such as fires and floods that interrupt food supply and production. Dan Huang-Taylor, executive director of Food Banks BC, noted that the demand for food banks across the province is the highest it’s been in 40 years. He attributes this to the current rate of inflation coming on the back of several difficult economic years caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have certainly seen an increase in the number of people coming to the food bank for the first time,” Huang-Taylor said. “Seniors typically represent 10 per cent of users of food banks. Anyone who is on a fixed outcome or has dietary restrictions that require they spend more are susceptible to the cost of living increase we find ourselves in.”
Danny Williams, president of the 100 Mile House Food Bank Society, said he hasn’t received any communication from Food Banks BC on how much money 100 Mile House will get. That being said he welcomes the extra funding due to high demand for the food bank’s services locally.
“All I can say (right now) is we’ll use the funds to buy more food,” Williams said, noting that their partnerships with 100 Mile Save-on-Foods and FreshCo 100 Mile House get them good deals on food.
Food Banks BC has already started to administer some of the funds from what they’re calling the “Agency Relief Fund” to several member food banks and hunger relief agencies.
“This welcome and necessary funding from the province will significantly enhance our work to support front-line hunger-relief agencies and to enhance access to food for those disproportionately impacted by poverty, including children and people living in B.C.’s northern communities,” Huang-Taylor said. “We don’t want to have to exist, but we know there’s a great deal of people who face hunger on a day-to-day basis.”
Commenting on the role food banks play in emergencies, Huang-Taylor said that when people are displaced from their homes it’s important to provide them with access to nutritious food. Food Banks BC continues to support those impacted by the 2021 Lytton wildfire, for example, as several First Nations communities near Lytton lost access to their primary source of food when most of the town burnt down.
Huang-Taylor said the 100 Mile Food Bank Society is eligible for funding, and that to receive money they’ll have to indicate to Food Banks BC how much they need. This process may take time, as they have 106 member organizations.
He added that, unlike previous funding or grants, this money can be used to cover expenses other than strictly buying food. This can include new shelving or refrigeration units.
“What we have heard from many of our food bank members is that some of the other costs they need to cover to operate can be difficult (to cover),” Huang-Taylor said. “Some of these ongoing costs can be quite expensive, so this is proving to be a very effective way to support our members.”