Once a week, Global News will feature our local community partners to highlight how they are handling day-to-day operations during the coronavirus pandemic and how you can help.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia had the highest rate of food insecurity of any province in the country, with one in six households experiencing food insecurity.
During the pandemic, Feed Nova Scotia is seeing people reach out for support who have never gone to a food bank before.
“They are now faced with a very different financial situation,” says Karen Theriault, Feed Nova Scotia’s director of communications. “The huge numbers of people laid off, small business owners who are struggling; there’s a persistent and deepening concern around the level of food insecurity in the community.”
Feed Nova Scotia has a network of 141 food banks, shelters and meal programs across the province. Prior to the pandemic, they would ship $1 million worth of food every month to those networks to support 42,000 people looking for food support.
“There’s been a huge additional level of anxiety, worry and fear around access to food,” says Theriault. “For people whose income may be compromised, that worry is deeper.”
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Theriault recognizes there’s a balance needed between doing everything they can to support the people who already rely on food banks for support and those that are new to using food banks. “We’re responding to the immediate crisis and we’re bracing for the long term impact,” she says. “We’ve had lots of support (from our government leaders) but this is not going to go away very quickly.”
Nevertheless, Theriault recognizes Nova Scotians and Canadians are resilient. “It’s a bit overwhelming at times but what makes it easier is the huge show of support we’re receiving from the community.
The goal now, she says, is to ensure there is enough financial support to keep Feed Nova Scotia sustainable down the road.
“We’re no good to our community if we drain the organization and put ourselves in a compromised financial situation,” Theriault says. “We need to make sure we’re here for the province in six months, 12 months out from now.”
The best way for people to help Feed Nova Scotia during the pandemic is by making a financial donation through their website, as it is the easiest and lowest-risk way to give, but Food donation bins are still at the front of participating grocery stores and picked up twice a week.
The televised Stronger Together benefit concert in April saw over $6 million raised for food banks across the country, which includes Feed Nova Scotia.
“As Nova Scotians, we look out for each other. There’s always been a huge level of generosity, every single thing we do is because of community generosity,” Theriault says. “We’re seeing new people donating for the first time which is so inspiring and heartwarming. When there’s a crisis like this, there is no stigma or judgment.”
Theriault is grateful for the genuine compassion in the community right now and hopes it will continue. “We’re looking at food insecurity with a different lens now,” she says. “We’re not looking at it as who fits that poverty definition, it’s just anyone who needs access to food should have access to food. We’re being reminded more and more during this crisis that food is basic human need, a basic human right and were doing all we can to provide it without asking the question why they deserve it.”
To help Feed Nova Scotia, donate online at feednovascotia.ca.
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