Nfld. & Labrador·Fed Up

With free food hampers, Bauline takes its fight against food insecurity even farther

The small town has doubled down on its efforts to feed its community's families, making a food hamper service for seniors free and issuing other families gift cards.

Grants help town waive $20 fee on hampers, distribute gift cards to families

The hampers, which are distributed once a month and used to cost seniors $20, are now free. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The small town of Bauline is building on its already impressive battle against food insecurity by waiving the fee on its senior food hamper program and expanding efforts to other segments of its population.

The community of about 450 people, just a stone's throw from St John's, made headlines in March when it began buying groceries in bulk, and distributing them once a month to seniors at a cost of $20.

What started as a service for 20 residents grew to about 60 as the pandemic moved in, bringing in restrictions and risks that targeted the elderly above all.

But with COVID-19 also came a chance to improve the program.

"There was opportunities to apply for funding, and there's lots of funding out there to try to help people, so that's exactly what we did," said Donna Connors, Bauline's assistant town manager.

"We applied for multiple different levels of funding and we were quite successful."

One successful grant, for $15,000 from Community Food Centres Canada, gave Bauline the breathing room to eliminate the $20 fee and make the hampers free.

Donna Connors, the assistant town manager of the Town of Bauline, credits grant-writing with the town's continued success in fighting food insecurity. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Grant writing good luck

The hamper program requires hard work, as Connors said four people dedicate their time to co-ordinate the effort. 

"We buy in bulk, we get some great help from local businesses, where there they have stuff ready for us and we pick it up and we come back and break it all down and deliver it that day," she said. "It's a bit of work, but we got some great volunteers."

The paperwork end of things also requires some skill, as Connors said she and the others involved are always on the lookout for available cash to combat food insecurity.

"We're very aggressive in writing grants and looking for funding, and seeing how we can make our community fit [requirements]," she said.

Other cash they've been able to come by has been $10,000 of gift cards through Loblaws, which the town will be putting into the hands of families.

"They'll just have gift cards delivered to their door," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Connors encourages other towns to start scouring the grant world for themselves, and says she has already met with neighbouring communities to share her successful tips.

"You just have to put in the time to write the grants, look for the funding, connect with funders, create a profile where you're able to run these programs and things," she said.

The next project is planning and grant writing toward a community garden, said Connors, and helping people take an active role in growing their own food.

Fed Up is a collaboration between CBC N.L. and Food First NL, the province’s not-for-profit organization that works to improve access to healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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