Compared to the B.C. average, North Okanagan is home to a relatively high proportion of elderly people, single parents and people on income assistance. Fourteen per cent of households in the Interior Health region are now experiencing food insecurity. Given the impacts of COVID-19, climate events and soaring food costs, these low-income community members are now struggling to consistently afford and access local, fresh and nutritious foods.
“In 2020, when the pandemic was ramping up and locking us down, the Community Foundation along with many generous donors, stepped in to support low-income households by offering a monthly fresh produce box and a grocery store gift card. Since that initial response, we’ve funded more than 3,200 fresh food boxes and gift cards,” says Leanne Hammond, executive director of Community Foundation North Okanagan.
“We fund the Fill the Gap Food Program, which is delivered through the Good Food Box Society. They source fresh in-season foods from local farmers and food producers and assemble and deliver the fresh food boxes with a team of dedicated community volunteers.”
The need for this program arose during the pandemic when individuals who had never accessed the services of a charity or food bank started to need a financial boost. Through the foundation’s close relationships with the Archway Society for Domestic Peace, School District 22, Nexus Community Resource Centre, along with 20+ other local service organizations, CFNO was made aware that many of their clients were falling through the “cracks” and not eligible for food programs or had a barrier to accessing a food bank.
“The goal of the Good Food Box program is to help all families and individuals access healthy produce including those families that would not have been able to afford healthy produce due to financial issues,” said Donna Antonishak, with the Good Food Box program. “Recently, many factors have affected food costs jumping over 10 to 15 per cent, including inflation, rising gas prices, higher production costs, up and above the reduced ability to earn wages for many families during the pandemic.
“Families must juggle their ability to pay rent, gas, food utilities and other household costs. Some have had to choose to eat less to pay for heat or rent and to miss out on higher-cost foods, including produce.”
CFNO wants to continue offering the Fill the Gap Food Program to low-income community members and they need your support to keep this program running. A donation of any amount helps them support families throughout the North Okanagan.
Your donation to the Better Together Fund allows the foundation to direct funding to food security, emergency response and time-sensitive needs and opportunities, and is much appreciated. Learn more at www.cfno.org/bettertogetherfund.