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Columbia-Shuswap food banks collaborate as needs/costs increase

Sicamous, Revelstoke, Golden and Invermere work together on food procurement pilot project
The Eagle Valley Community Support Society is one of four area food banks participating in a collaborative procurement study to help support each other through the challenges they face, with executive director Janet McClean Senft stating that “working collectively is a huge bonus for us.” (Black Press file photo)

Area food banks are taking a collaborative approach to determine ways to meet needs within a viable budget.

A recent media release announced that food banks in Sicamous, Revelstoke, Golden and Invermere are participating in the Rural Food Banks Food Procurement Study through the Land to Table Network and Institute of Sustainable Food Systems and Kwantlen to acquire food more economically.

“As costs of food increase, these food banks have more people to feed with fewer donations and limited staff time,” the release states. “The four food banks that what they may lack in funding, population and capacity, they make up for in strong community relationships and willingness to work together.”

All food banks are feeling increased pressure, with data from the Revelstoke location highlighting two alarming trends. The number of households accessing the food bank increased dramatically from 286 in 2019 to 716 in 2022, while food costs have nearly doubled over that same period.

With funding from an anonymous donor, this eight-month study will look at the operations, finances, connections, networks and possibilities of their operations. Using interview, economical and statistical analysis and collaborative evaluation, the research team will develop pilot opportunities to connect the food banks, highlighting their strengths and supporting each other’s weaknesses.

“Having the opportunity to explore our options for increasing access to healthy food by working collectively is a huge bonus for us,” said Eagle Valley Community Support Society executive director Janet McClean Senft. “Our community and rural area has been as supportive as they can be, but with access to reasonably priced or recovered foods so hit-and-miss, we risk not being able to meet the need in the future.”

Along with the actionable pilot, the food banks will also receive recommendations to improve their individual operations and food procurement.

“The hope is that this project will not only support these four food banks, but that the report will act as an advocacy tool and present a model that other small food banks in Canada can replicate or learn from toward more resilient operations,” reads the release.

A final report is expected to be completed by March 2024.

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