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Some Nova Scotia food banks see more demand and more support

Feed Nova Scotia serves 42,000 people in need every year. After the pandemic, they expect this number to be much higher.
Feed Nova Scotia serves 42,000 people in need every year. After the pandemic, they expect this number to be much higher. Global News

Nova Scotia, a province with some of the highest food insecurity rates in Canada, has begun to see an increase in the demand for food support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a story that is playing out across the country.

Food Banks Canada has reported a 20 to 50 per cent increase in demand for food donations and volunteers in some regions since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Tuesday the group launched the I ATE campaign with a goal of $70 million. It marks the remainder of the organization’s $150 million COVID-19 response goal.

READ MORE: How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting food security in Canada

The initial fundraiser was announced in March in an effort to support Canadian food banks through the pandemic.

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As provinces announce easing restrictions, demand for food support will only rise.

Feed Nova Scotia spokesperson Karen Theriault said the group usually distributes around one million dollars-worth of food each month and sees around 42,000 individual foodbank goers a year.

In the seven weeks since a state emergency was declared for COVID-19, Theriault said they distributed 30 per cent more food than in the same seven weeks last year.

The number of new food bank visitors has also significantly increased, she said.

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Theriault said Feed Nova Scotia expects to see an even larger increase once restrictions on business are lifted and more people feel comfortable leaving their homes.

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“Sadly we are hearing there are people who choose to go hungry in their homes because they cannot, or are anxious to, go out and get support,” she said.

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The biggest concern for food banks right now is that once government support expires and people are left with no extra support, there will be a long-term increase.

Food Banks Canada CEO Chris Hatch said in a press release: “We’re still dealing with the aftermath of the Great Recession, and that was more than a decade ago. Now we have to brace ourselves for an even greater surge over the coming months.”

READ MORE: Feed Nova Scotia bracing for long-term impact of COVID-19: ‘Food is basic human need’

Financial help is crucial for food banks to prepare for the upcoming months.

Karen Theriault says while food donations are lacking, Feed N.S. has received great financial support since the pandemic began.

“It’s almost like this COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on a crisis situation that was already there,” she says.

“Food insecurity has never been so top-of-mind for so many people.”

Theriault says she is hoping people resonate with the new I ATE campaign and raise the remaining $70 million of the national goal.

The $80 million already raised came from three types of donors: $12 million from individuals, $18 million from corporate partners and private foundations and $50 million from the federal government.

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“It’s an opportunity for Canadians, for Nova Scotians, to step up and help their neighbour.”

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According to Theriault, Food Banks Canada has given Feed Nova Scotia hundreds of thousands from the pandemic campaign so far.

Matt Litzinger, president of the campaign marketing group The Local Collective, said in a press release:

“Every person should have the ability to say I ATE, every day, as often as they need to. And that is our mission, with your help and all of our help we can make sure every family, friend and person can say this powerful phrase.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia non-profit, Family SOS, calls upon public: ‘Bringing in food is our main challenge’

Theriault says she believes the stigma around food insecurity has already lowered.

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“I hope that if people need support that fear alone isn’t stopping them from getting it, that the stigma isn’t stopping them from getting it.”

If there are physical issues around transportation preventing people from getting the food support they need, Nova Scotia has a helpline to match people with a local food bank that could deliver, she says.