With health experts predicting a second wave of COVID-19 coming in the fall or winter months, how are food banks preparing for an increased need for their services? The answer to that question varies as you go across the country, as the path forward isn’t abundantly clear.
One new problem that may occur is with government supports winding down for most individuals the need for emergency food services may rise dramatically. The Greater Vancouver Food Bank has been able to use federal funding to increase their capacity allowing them to feed 450 people a week, up from 250 people per week pre-Covid. The Burnaby warehouse alone has increased its refrigeration space by 400% and has purchased a lot of non-perishable food.
An organization called FoodShare in Toronto has said that its service is now being used by 3000 people per week, up from 300 people per week pre-Covid. FoodShare specializes in providing Good Food Boxes that are filled with fresh and locally sourced produce to those in need. FoodShare has created community-run markets either at outdoor parks or in lobbies in housing buildings to try and reduce contact and spread, so people who are immuno-compromised can access their services.
Several experts in the food industry expect food insecurity to continually get worse as more people are unemployed and access to food gets even more difficult with the supply chain shocks seen throughout the pandemic. Even though donating food is better than nothing, it does not wholly stop the issue of food insecurity at the source of the issue. Donating food is more of a solution to the problem of food waste, not food insecurity. One solution to help deal with the issue of food insecurity are community kitchen programs, which are taking their model online by providing Zoom sessions where the community cooks a meal together, virtually of course. The reason why this model is effective is because it helps foster community relationships.
Experts would like us to understand the problems associated with the food charity model. There is a lack of dignity and quality associated with giving people food you don't eat or the canned food at the back of your cupboard because it almost forgets the humanity of the people receiving the food. There is a large issue of economic inequality and inequity, as Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are experiencing inequality at a higher level. One organization specializing in virtual cooking workshops is providing internet access and Chromebooks to provide access to their programs, to help reduce social isolation and foster community relationships.
Some are calling for emergency funding going to food banks, to go towards social service programs that enable lower-income families to have the ability to pay for their own food and rent providing dignity and ability, so they are not reliant on the food charity model.