A recent report suggests local food banks and government need to collaborate to help reduce poverty and food insecurity in Grande Prairie. 

City administration presented the report to the Public and Protective Services Committee on April 16, outlining the services being provided by local organizations and their challenges.

“Looking ahead, ongoing collaboration and innovative initiatives will remain pivotal in tackling the complex challenges of food insecurity,” said Tammy Wentzell, city director of Community Social Development. 

The report shows the Salvation Army has served 1,413 new individuals this year, serving a total of 2,592 people; the Northreach Society has served 464 people (246 adults and 218 children); and the Northwestern Polytechnic Student Association has handed out about 145 hampers this school year.

Multiple organizations are also providing meals to those facing food insecurity. The Community Kitchen has served about 7,500 meals this year and needs $100,000 to resume weekend meal service.

Wapiti House and the St. Lawrence Centre is serving about 220 people breakfast daily and noted that many will go without lunch or supper. The hot supper program ended when a local church was unable to continue due to funding. The program costs about $20,000 a month. 

The GP Sikh Society serves about 650 people per week; many of its clients are international students. It noted the need for additional funds, space and volunteers to meet the community’s needs. 

The Khwahish Foundation is also providing 2,000 hot meals every month to about 220 people at Wapiti House and 30 at Cedar Point, formerly the Community Care Campus. The foundation noted it cannot sustain the current level of support as it will need about $20,000 a year.

City council approved $24,000 for the Cairn Housing Society in March, which is also providing a food bank for its residents and community members.

Additionally, Coun. Wendy Bosch noted that there are other organizations not mentioned in the report such as the Veterans Association Food Bank.  

“It sounds like some organizations had the capacity where other organizations did not, so we saw those inconsistencies and could see that there was lots of room for further collaboration,” said Wentzell. 

She said the city is working on finding solutions to encourage more collaboration. 

Last year, the city performed a Food Access and Affordability Survey to better understand local food insecurity. The results found that food insecurity was not exclusive to low-income households. 

According to the survey, only 18 per cent of households never face problems affording food. 

About one in five people (19 per cent) often face problems affording food in their household; 39 per cent occasionally face problems affording food for their households while 24 per cent rarely experience a problem.

Wentzell noted that the survey found short-term and long-term recommendations the community could implement. 

“To tackle this complex issue, the city has formed a partnership with Tamarack Institute and nine other communities aimed at exploring innovative approaches to advance poverty reduction efforts by addressing root causes, and on equal access to resources and investing in community initiatives,” said Wentzell. 

“Organizations sometimes have difficulty coming together into forming kind of the best step forward because a lot of them are out there fundraising on their own, they are looking for their own way forward, but I do see lots of inefficiencies as I put this report together. 

“There is a huge opportunity for (city administration) to be stepping up and I see us doing it through this Tamarack opportunity that we have to look at the research around to look at that baseline data, so I do see the administration taking a deeper role now based on the commitment that we’ve had with Tamrack for the next two years.”

More information on the city’s food security efforts is available at cityofgp.com/foodsecurity.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2024 at 09:06

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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