The recent “joining of forces” of two local food security organizations does more than demonstrate how persistent their efforts are towards making sure the town’s residents have food on the table.
When the Jasper Local Food Society and Jasper Food Recovery decided to merge, it also sent a loud signal that the economic situation for many households is not just worsening: it’s swiftly nearing a point of crisis.
Sasha Galitzki, chair of the Jasper Local Food Society, said that food security issues grew faster over these last few years in relation to the negative economic effects that the COVID-19 pandemic put onto many people’s plates.
Those negative economic effects have not abated; rather, they are multiplying with a corresponding rise in public demand for help.
“What we’re seeing is that it’s continuing to rise,” Galitzki said, talking while volunteering at the food sorting table along with Jasper Food Recovery manager Melody Gaboury and others on Good Friday.
As they’ve observed the worsening situation, the two groups have also considered ways that they can combine their efforts in order to achieve an economy of scale.
“In the last year, there’s been a recognition that we’re all working towards the same goals, and that we’d really like to have more collaboration and resource sharing in the pursuit of those goals, so we’re not all working independently in our own little bubbles,” Galitzki said.
The Jasper Local Food Society is the organization that co-ordinates the Jasper Farmers’ Market, the Jasper Community Garden, the Seedy Saturday seed swap, the seed library at the Jasper Municipal Library, Apple Fest and more. Its main interest is increasing availability of locally-grown foods and growing the community through food.
Jasper Food Recovery is a food rescue group that collects edible food that grocery stores deem to be no longer sellable and offers it to all residents for the cost of a donation to the organization. Everyone is welcome to the shop when it’s open for business at the Anglican Church Hall (corner of Geikie St. and Miette Ave.) from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays.
The groceries will vary depending on what the stores are able to offer them from week to week. Last Friday, the fridge was full of milk and non-dairy milk substitutes, several boxes of produce, lots of bread and even a palette of chips and snacks.
Jasper Food Recovery also offers the community fridges at the Jasper Activity Centre, where residents can also drop a cash donation in the box to access whatever food is available there. The activity centre is also where a daily soup kitchen (operated by Glenda the Great Catering since the Chetamon Wildfire) continues to ladle out soup for free or by donation to one and all. Reportedly, the amount of soup reaches 20 to 50 litres per day.
Jasper Food Recovery operates entirely different from the Jasper Food Bank, which works with food that has been purchased and donated to the public and then distributes hampers to its clientele. That client base has also seen record growth recently, marking another red-light indicator on the local food security dashboard.
The Jasper Food Bank was one of more than 200 food security organizations across Alberta that has benefited from $10 million in provincial funding that was announced in November 2022.
Jasper Food Recovery and the Jasper Local Food Society, however, have not yet heard if they have been approved. In the meantime, they continue to struggle to pay their own bills.
These two groups are facing their own tough times in that regard. They offer their prodigious gratitude for the ample support from local businesses, a strong volunteer base and Jasper Municipal Council, yet they find themselves still coming up short and pulling their purse strings even tighter.
This merger is also meant to help pool their resources to cover their costs.
“The expenses for this building are significant… the expenses to keep it going,” Gaboury said.
She explained that these expenses include rent and insurance for the hall. They strive to help cover the cost of gas for drivers who do grocery pickups in Hinton.
“What I told my volunteers months ago was ‘don’t even touch the heat. We’re here for such a brief period of time. Let’s just dress warm.’ I feel so badly,” Gaboury said.
“Currently, donations are not enough to cover those (costs), so we are trying to figure out how to make that sustainable in the long-term,” Galitzki said. “Our hope is we can eventually find a way to sustainably support the program beyond just the bare bones expenses. We’re not there yet.”
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Apr 14, 2023
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