PEI Food Exchange becomes registered non-profit
The group has grown over the last 5 years, and hopes to expand in the future
After several years of growth, a P.E.I. group focused on improving access to healthy food has taken the step to become a registered non-profit.
PEI Food Exchange was started by a small group in 2013 who wanted to address high levels of food insecurity in the province. The group partnered with farmers and organized to pick extra produce that would otherwise go to waste.
"We live in an agricultural province, and we were aware that some food would be left in the fields," said Pauline Howard, the group's harvest coordinator.
The group now organizes other community programs focused on food security, and Howard hopes the new non-profit status will help the Food Exchange build on its work, and grow in the future.
Various programs, workshops
Since its start as a group focused on gleaning vegetables, the Food Exchange has expanded to offer other programs.
Howard said gleaning food was successful, but organizers realized many people didn't know how to make their produce last through the winter. The group started offering classes on preserving food, and later cooking and gardening classes.
The group also runs a food mentor program, where people offer programs in their own communities, but Howard said without being registered it has been difficult to fund those projects.
"They were sort of left on their own to try to raise these funds. So we saw that as being a barrier to having some really great food actions take place in the community," she said.
"That was the impetus to say yes, we really do need to get registered."
The group operates its main programs on only about $500 a year raised at an annual fundraiser. Howard said the group had discussed registering as a non-profit for several years, but were deterred by the cost.
"For a small group like we are with limited capacity, and wanting to make every dollar count that the community donates to us, it was a challenge," Howard said.
"That money could go to feed a lot of people."
Ultimately Howard said the group was lucky to find a lawyer to partner with, who was willing to do the work for free.
Howard says the non-profit registration likely won't have a big impact on operations right away, but she hopes it will open more doors for the group in the future.
"In the long term, we do have a very big vision, and we realize that we don't have the capacity to do that on our own," Howard said.
"But perhaps … we might be able to look at working with other community organizations who would look more favourably, and perhaps give us more credibility now that we're a registered non-profit."