Cranbrook community food programs are working hard to ensure that everyone in need in the community is fed despite changes and challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Food banks across BC are struggling to meet increased demand across the province. An article written by Black Press reporter Twila Amato (March 27), explains that the number of people going to food banks for assistance is only expected to increase.
In Cranbrook, the community has banded together. The Townsman recently reported that the Cranbrook Food Bank has faced some real challenges in the past few weeks, however they are able to stay open thanks to a collective effort from the community. Connect Church, Salvation Army, Street Angels and the Rotary Club to name a few, have been able to help keep the Food Bank going.
Another organization that serves as a vital link in the community is the Cranbrook Food Recovery program. The program provides food to eight different charitable organizations and six different schools. They take unsold food from stores, which would usually end up in the landfill and divert it to community groups who serve people in need.
The Cranbrook Food Recovery program is still operating and although they have had to seriously downsize the amount of people in the building, they are able to continue their programming successfully.
Meredith Funston, Coordinator of the Cranbrook Food Recovery, says that they’ve been working hard from the beginning and have had to reduce their number of staff and volunteers in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
“We’ve really been working with a skeleton crew and at times it’s tough but we’ve managed to pull through,” Funston said. “Our core staff and volunteers are working hard.”
She adds that food donations have been somewhat down, mainly due to the fact that grocery stores have been busier than usual. There is not as much food donated to the recovery program compared to normal.
Funston said that they’re looking at different ways to help the Food Bank. More specifically, they are working on plans to help deliver food to those in need. She adds that the recovery program is also looking at ways to help connect people to their food through gardening. They have been working with the Cranbrook Public Garden on a social-distancing form of connecting people to their gardens.
“We’re not quite sure exactly what that will look like yet, but we’ve talked about delivering garden starter kits, for example,” Funston said.
She stressed the importance of food systems, especially at a time like this.
“You know this is a tough time, but if we can learn one thing, it’s the importance of food systems,” Funston said. “It’s so great to see everyone pull together and it’s really a very interesting thing to see.”
Food Secure Canada recently published an article (March 18) highlighting inequities in Canada’s food system. The article explains how the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan will help Canadians be able to pay for rent and groceries through various income-support measures.
“We hope the details of this stimulus package will be an opportunity to support the kind of deep transitions in food and agriculture that will lead to healthy, just and sustainable food systems in an immediate and practical way,” reads the article. “Civil society organizations have a wealth of invaluable expertise on the ground, not only in terms of emergency food aid and creating community food centres, hubs and school programs, but also in connecting small food producers, processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers in a manner that supplies local Canadian markets.”
One example of that kind of connection is Kootenay Farm to Folk. The Cranbrook-based business works with over 80 local farmers and food producers and connects them with the public through their in-store market and online marketplace.
Rihanna Embury of Kootenay Farm to Folk explained that the local business has created a special section on their website to help local food banks as well.
“We added a food bank donation section to our website, where people can go and make a donation online. We then purchase fresh, local food from our suppliers and deliver it to those organizations,” Embury said.
She explained that residents of Cranbrook, Kimberley, Sparwood and Fernie can choose the specific food bank or organization that they want to donate to. All of the food that Kootenay Farm to Folk will donate is the same food they would sell to the public, so it is healthy, fresh and sourced locally, says Embury.
“Today, we’re delivering around 200 pounds of food to the women’s shelter,” Embury said. “We are just trying to help make sure that everyone’s fed and has access to fresh food.”