Neighbours Feeding Neighbours

Generosity keeps Tyne Valley’s Caring Cupboard stocked

Tyne Valley is home to PEI’s newest food bank, an expansion of the West Prince Caring Cupboard, with locations already in Bloomfield, Tignish, and Alberton.

Christian members of the community approached the Caring Cupboard Board to establish a closer location. “If you can’t afford food, how are you going to afford gas to get up to Bloomfield?” explains Doug LeBlanc, co-director of the new centre. The Tyne Valley Presbyterian Church donated space and within two months, the shelves were stocked and a dozen volunteers were in place to open the centre mid-January 2016.

The Caring Cupboard is open in Tyne Valley on Thursdays from 10:00 am to noon. In September, 45 households were helped. Most clients are families with children. Surprisingly, many clients are employed but simply can not make ends meet. Most clients visit the Caring Cupboard about once a month.

“The generosity of the community has been phenomenal,” says Verna Barlow, co-director of the Caring Cupboard. Local churches regularly drop off donations, but many other community groups and individuals help keep the food bank stocked as well. “We’ve been so lucky,” notes Barlow, “we ran low of some things in the summer, but our shelves were never empty.”

Donations to food banks go up and down. Time of year is an important factor, but even bad weather during a community food drive can be devastating to the steady flow of donations needed.

Fresh produce is one example of a food donation to the Caring Cupboard

Fresh produce is one example of a food donation to the Caring Cupboard

“We are more dependent on food banks now than we have ever been,” says Ann Wheatley of the PEI Food Security Network. This raises hard questions. PEI is known as Canada’s Food Island, over one third of our land is active farmland and over half of our exports are agricultural products. With such abundance, how do we also have such high rates of food insecurity?

Last year’s Hunger Count from Food Banks Canada, showed that 3,153 Islanders visited food banks in just one month (March) and that 35% of those helped were children. That means 1 out of every 5 children on PEI cannot count on having enough to eat at home.
1 out of every 5 children on PEI cannot count on having enough to eat at home.

Charities, such as Caring Cupboards, are the main responders to food insecurity on PEI; however, charitable responses work best in emergency or temporary situations. They don’t fix the broken system that perpetuates food insecurity.

“We need to look at how to change the system instead of using stop gap measures,” Wheatley says. On PEI, the food allowance for social assistance have been increased slightly but this still “doesn’t take into account the real cost of healthy food on PEI,” she explains. What is needed are long-term solutions, such as an increased minimum wage and a guaranteed basic income for all Islanders.

“No one should have to choose between a warm, safe place to live or food on their plates,” LeBlanc says, summing up the real and impossible choice many Islanders have to make regularly.

Steps you can take now to improve food security on PEI

  • Pick up a few items for your local food bank every time you shop. Cereal, vegetables, baby food, and personal hygiene supplies are always in need.
  • Contact your MLA or MP. Advocate for a fair assessment of food costs on PEI, a guaranteed basic income for Islanders, or healthy school meal programs.
  • Shop locally and invest in the PEI economy by supporting Island farmers, fishers, and producers.
  • Start a conversation about food insecurity in your area. PEI Food Security Network can help you get the conversation started.

Katherine Bell