Nova Scotia

Infighting closes Greystone Food Bank, but help is coming

Doors at the Greystone Food Bank in Spryfield, N.S., are locked after squabbling and infighting among organizers came to a head earlier this week.

Locks have been changed and food is no longer being delivered

There is a big demand for the food bank in the Greystone area, where about 140 people a month use the service. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Doors at the Greystone Food Bank in Spryfield are locked after squabbling and infighting among organizers came to a head earlier this week.

The Community of Rockingstone Society used to run the food bank, but now it's not clear who's in charge, according to Feed Nova Scotia.

"We didn't have the information we needed. We weren't sure where the responsibility or the accountability was. There were organizational challenges," said Becky Mason, the director of community connections with Feed Nova Scotia.

Organizers at the Greystone Food Bank haven't gotten along for years, Mason said. Many volunteer groups go through periods of upheaval as old members leave and new ones come on board, she said.

The food bank serves an average of 140 individuals a month and is open one day a week, said Mason. Many people in the Greystone area live in public housing and have low incomes.

Becky Mason works for Feed Nova Scotia. She says her organization has already worked out a way to get food to the needy without using the Greystone Food Bank. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Two groups at the food bank are fighting for control and that's led to some of the confusion about who's in charge.

The Rockingstone Society that ran the food bank was dissolved this week after arguments among its members persisted. A new group, the Alternatives Outreach Society, was formed to run the food bank.

With so much uncertainty, Feed Nova Scotia decided to stop food deliveries to Greystone.

Feed Nova Scotia handles the collection and distribution of food for 146 food banks, shelters and meal programs in the province. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

On Thursday, the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority, which provides space for the food bank, changed the building's locks, keeping everyone involved with the food bank out. The Department of Community Services funds the housing authority through Housing Nova Scotia.

A department spokesperson said Community Services was providing the space for a food bank and the space is no longer being used for that purpose, so the locks were changed.

"We provided space for the operation of a food bank. We received notification from Feed Nova Scotia that they were suspending the service to this location. We then changed the locks in response. It's not uncommon for us to do that in situations like this," said Heather Fairbairn.

Jodi Brown says the Alternatives Outreach Society is ready to run a food bank and wants to work with Feed Nova Scotia. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Jodi Brown was a member of the old board and is part of the new society as well.  

"I understand Feed Nova Scotia got scared," said Brown. "It was like a knee-jerk reaction. They got scared and they pulled out. I'm really excited to work with Feed Nova Scotia again. Our society is ready to work with them."

Temporary solution

Even though the Greystone Food Bank is shut down, people will still be able to get food. Mason said Feed Nova Scotia will now deliver food for the Greystone area to St. Paul's Family Resource Institute, which also runs a food bank in Spryfield.

Feed Nova Scotia doesn't expect anyone to be harmed by the food bank's closure since the food bank was open earlier this week. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

That food will then be delivered to the Greystone community police office on 146 Greystone Dr., where people can pick it up on Wednesday. People in the area who need food are asked to call 902-477-5090 on Monday or Tuesday to make sure they can get the food they need.

Mason doesn't believe this week's disruption in service will cause too much harm.

"We see this as a temporary measure to get us through the next two months and we're really looking forward to working with the community in January."

With files from Shaina Luck