Originally envisaged as a temporary measure, Canada has come to rely on food banks to provide short-term food relief to nearly 900,000 people per month. While it is vital to meet the immediate needs of those living with food insecurity, food banks can also play a role in working towards the kind of sustainable, resilient food system that would eliminate the need for emergency food aid in the long term.
Providing more healthy, fresh and diverse food in a way that respects the dignity of food bank users and more meaningfully engages them in solving problems related to hunger is an approach that is gaining traction among some food banks, and has the potential to transform the role of food banks as a whole in Canada. In 2014, the Trustees of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation approved a program to support food banks to move in this direction.
The objective of the Banking on Change Fund was to increase food security at the community level by supporting a shift in local food banks away from an approach focused on emergency food aid towards one that embraces their role in providing healthy and sustainable food as well as addressing the root causes of hunger. This fund was developed with the support and advice of a committee made up of leaders from Food Banks Canada, Community Food Centres Canada, Food Secure Canada, and Community Foundations of Canada.
The fund was launched in June 2014, and 94 applications were received from across Canada. Grants were made to the following 12 local organizations:
- North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society, to expand their current gleaning efforts into a full season-long harvest share program
- NDG Food Depot, to aid their transformation into a community food hub and market
- Salvation Army Chilliwack, to develop and implement a case management approach that addresses root causes of hunger
- Food Matters Manitoba, to reduce policy and legal barriers to the use of community freezers in indigenous communities
- Flemingdon Park Community Food Bank, to address barriers to healthy food consumption through a non-profit community food stand
- Project SHARE, to purchase a refrigerated truck that will enable them to leverage food rescue relationships with local organizations and growers
- Mission Services of Hamilton, to purchase equipment and dedicate staff time needed to procure healthy food for their nutrition centre
- Aylmer Food Centre, to help transport perishable food items and food bank users, and augment storage capacity
- La Corbeille-Bordeaux Cartierville, to develop partnerships with local growers, transform excess food, and use group buying to reduce food purchase costs for community members
- Service d’éducation et de Sécurité Alimentaire de Mercier-Est, to bring local food security programs under one roof, implement a market, and create space for community kitchens and food transformation
- Food Bank Society of Whitehorse, to hire a warehouse manager that will enable their shift in procurement towards healthier food
- Agincourt Community Services Association, to train and support food bank users to be community food activists
Click here to view the Banking on Change RFP (note: the Banking on Change program will not be reopened for additional applicants).