Nova Scotia

Province, Feed Nova Scotia ponder home delivery program

Feed Nova Scotia and the provincial government are in talks about a possible home delivery service amid concerns some people aren’t going to food banks because they either don’t have a way to get there or they are concerned about contracting COVID-19.

Issues related to COVID-19 are making it more difficult for some to access food banks

Feed Nova Scotia trucks outside its location on Wright Avenue in Dartmouth. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Feed Nova Scotia and the provincial government are in talks about a possible home delivery service amid concerns some people aren't going to food banks because they either don't have a way to get there or they are concerned about contracting COVID-19.

Karen Theriault, a spokesperson for Feed Nova Scotia, said they're in weekly contact with their member food banks. As the pandemic has taken its toll on the province in terms of social and economic strains, Theriault said food banks are reporting different situations.

Some communities are seeing increases in the number of clients, while others are seeing decreases.

"I wish that I had that one perfect answer: everything is all great or, no, nothing is working," she said.

"But it really is so different in every community."

Transportation an issue for some people

Theriault said there are a variety of reasons for sites seeing a decline in numbers. That includes some people being in a more stable financial situation right now because they've been able to access various government support programs, while other people are "simply too afraid to leave their house," said Theriault.

"That is a worry. If you've got someone sitting home hungry, who doesn't have food, but they are too afraid to leave or they don't have the ability to leave."

The inability to leave relates to people who would normally rely on carpooling. With public health orders restricting gatherings to five people or fewer and calling on people to avoid mixing households, Theriault said some food bank clients have lost their means of transportation.

In response, some locations have introduced home delivery, a move that's led to an increase in usage at several sites. But because the services are volunteer-based, Theriault said it can be a challenge to maintain.

That's why Feed Nova Scotia is in talks with the province about ways to potentially ensure home delivery is available by establishing some type of central system. The talks are another example of the support Feed Nova Scotia is getting from the province, said Theriault.

"The door has never been closed. If there is a need, I feel confident that the province is there to help meet that need," she said.

A digital sign that says "COVID-19 is deadly. Stop the spread. Stay home" could be seen by commuters in the Halifax area during Easter 2020.
Because of COVID-19, Nova Scotians are being advised to stay home as much as possible. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

In March, the government announced a $1-million payment to the organization. About $800,000 of that was used immediately for a bulk food order in anticipation of a decrease in food donations. Theriault said food donations are down a bit, simply because there aren't gatherings and food drives happening the way they would normally.

But while food donations are down, Theriault said financial support from communities has been "a huge help."

"I honestly can't say enough to everyone who has just really, I don't know, gone that extra mile just thinking of those who might be struggling," she said, referencing a variety of online fundraisers people have organized.

On the same day the province announced the funding for Feed Nova Scotia in March, it also announced one-time payments of $50 for all income assistance clients, including each of the family members who live with the client.

A spokesperson for the Community Services Department did not directly respond to a question about whether the province is considering a second such payment, saying instead that the government would "work closely with our stakeholders, case workers and clients to ensure needs are met."