Food Bank shut out of funding

The Executive Director of the Kelowna Community Food Bank says her organization is being hampered in its efforts to feed people in need after being excluded from federal homeless funding.

Vonnie Lavers says a local Community Advisory Board has excluded the food bank from applying for Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) funding through 2014.

Since 2004, Lavers says the Kelowna Community Food Bank has received about $200,000 of HPS funding.

Lavers says $1.6M has been earmarked for local distribution.

"That funding helped us start the Nutrition Improvement Program and all those programs that we offer," says Lavers.

"We continued to use that funding for the same thing and to improve on those Nutritional Improvement programs."

She says the Food Bank received about $10,000 during the last round of funding.

Lavers says the Community Advisory Board, made up of 17 government and community agencies, submitted a plan identifying three funding priorities, outreach, case management and information exchange.

The plan she says was approved by Service Canada in August.

"This is a major oversight resulting from a flawed consultation process. Although we submitted an online survey questionnaire, we did not feel part of the consultations," added Lavers.

"We are very disappointed in the content of the plan and by the way the so-called consultation was conducted."

Lavers says the Food Bank is not able to apply for HPS funding now until after 2014.

In 2010, Lavers says about 13,000 individual households accessed services through the food bank.

"We help people lower their monthly food bill so they can stay housed."

She says the funding cut has already had an affect on programs.

"Our Kids Snack Pack program we would like to go up to age 15 for school age children but we can only go to the age of six so we know families are being further compromised."

Lavers says it is also compromising their ability to purchase milk, eggs and cheese.

"We are starting to move some gaming funding over so we are able to achieve that."

She adds that, from nutritional analysis of family food hampers, they are not meeting the nutritional needs of children based on the Canada Food Guide.

"Lack of dollars means lack of proper nutrition for children in this community."

Lavers says MP Ron Cannan encouraged the Food Bank to request CAB members amend the plan.

She says, upon further review, that request was rejected.

Regional District Social Development Coordinator, Christene Walsh, who facilitated the CAB, says she understands the food bank is disappointed.

"I can't change that the community has spoken," says Walsh.

"It wouldn't be fair to amend a process to meet the special needs of one organization. Then we'll have 10 others saying 'what about me?' It's very complicated."

Walsh says several other worth groups in Kelowna were also left off the list this time.

"In the past shelters were funded that are no longer under the new initiative. There were a multitude of resources that previously received funding that, for this new strategy, is not the identified focus."

She says she does feel for the food bank.

"They are an excellent resource and there's no disputing that but the direction for this limited funding is looking at the core needs of homelessness. It is a lot more challenging to raise money for struggling, acutely homeless, mentally ill, addicted persons who needs help," says Walsh.

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