Grand Falls food bank to close next week

Increased demand and less provincial funding has led to the closure of the Grand Falls Regional Food Bank.

Decrease in provincial funding partly to blame, says operator

The Grand Falls Regional Food Bank says it served 6,700 people last year. (CBC)

Increased demand and less funding has led to the closure of a Grand Falls food bank, according to the man who runs it.

The Grand Falls Regional Food Bank will shutter its doors Monday, but Glenn Rioux said the team will continue to help feed people in need. The food bank served about 6,700 people last year, he said.

Rioux said the problem is not food stores but rising expenses for an organization on a tight budget — and a decrease in provincial funding that has exacerbated the issue.

"We can't always blame the government, but the cost of operation is getting higher and higher," Rioux told Shift New Brunswick.

"For us, we need electricity. Well, the government has raised four times the electricity [rates] and we have a cold storage that costs $300 a month to run."

The food bank will close Monday, according to operator Glenn Rioux. (Google Maps)

He said the redistribution of provincial funds in 2017 has cost the food bank $5,000. Rioux said that may seem a small amount, but it adds up in a community where fewer donations are coming in.

New funding program

Last year, a new program called the Community Food Resource Support Program was introduced and an evaluation committee was created to assess applications, said Department of Social Development spokeswoman Anne Mooers.

"Funding was allocated to each applicant based on New Brunswick's food insecurity statistics, the Food Banks Canada Hunger Count, and additional information provided by each food bank to demonstrate their need," she said in a email Friday afternoon.

Food banks received at least 90 per cent of the funding requested, she said. In Rioux's case, Grand Falls requested $47,136 and received a grant of $42,422.  

"The grant program for food banks was reviewed in collaboration with the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks, in response to its concerns that the previous program was unequal and not transparent enough," said Mooers.

The move was criticized by some food banks that saw a dip in funding, while it was cheered by others that received funds for the first time.

The province's new funding arrangement received mixed reviews from food banks when it was announced last year. (Matthew Garand/CBC)

The department said it's working with the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks to ensure users of the Grand Falls food bank will not be affected.

Association officials were not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.

Rioux said the organization will continue to do what it can to help its clients. That could range from selling its building to supporting similar organizations in the area.

"It doesn't mean everybody is going to get food," he said. "But we're going to work hard enough to do the best that we can."

With files from Shift New Brunswick and Colin McPhail