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N.B. food banks struggling to keep up with demand
A new study indicates New Brunswick food banks are struggling, not only to keep up with demand, but to provide healthy food.
The numbers aren't pretty, but researchers at the University of Moncton are painting a hopeful picture when it comes to food security in the province.
“We want to make evidence based decisions and this will help us in putting together a provincial strategy for food security,” says Cathy Rogers, Minister of Social Development. “We've already started with our vision, which has been informed by a lot of the same partners, so we're very much already moving towards this.”
The report says nearly half of the organizations dedicated to easing the burden of food can't meet demand, and even fewer can consistently provide fruit, veggies, and dairy products.
In addition, they struggle to find volunteers and raise donations.
“They also need more facilities,” says Dominique Pepin-Filion, researcher. “They don't always have the space to do it or special equipment. We're talking like fridges and freezers.”
People on the frontlines say the report gives them a solid base to work from, starting with more collaboration.
“If we're continually going after the same dollar, we're actually bothering the people providing that dollar,” says Greg Doucet, with Oromocto Food and Clothing Bank. “If we collaborate together, both by our local partnerships we've made, as well as provincial and larger organizations, there's an ability for us to make that dollar go further and be more effective.”
“It's nice to hear from research again, which validates that this is not just a government oriented or focused solution, we need all community partners at the table, including private businesses,” says Rogers.
The government and food banks agree cutting down on waste could kill two birds with one stone. Pounds of ugly fruits and veggies are thrown out every day at big box grocery stores, when the government says they could be sent off to food banks.
“I understand they don't want to sell it because it's not a fine product for people to pay for, but for those who can't afford it, we can peel a few leaves off a cabbage, take a few rotten oranges out of the bag and give away the rest,” says Doucet.
Under the Good Samaritan’s act, a business or person can't be prosecuted for donating food that may turn bad after the fact.
“Once you donate that to a charitable cause, you're totally safe, but we're not doing it and this is something that is endemic in our system and we need to change our system if we really want to make a difference,” says Aaron Shantz, coordinator at Our Food.
The government and food groups are ready to tackle that obstacle, and want to see the agricultural and educational ministers at the table to pitch in, in hopes of fuller, healthier plates across the province.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke