Emergency Food Program Funding Dries up as Second Wave of COVID-19 hits

[Comox Valley, BC, November 23rd, 2020]

Last March, no one could have predicted that the COVID Pandemic state of emergency would last so long. Or, perhaps, we just didn’t really want to think about it.

“Emergencies are usually understood as having relatively short time-frames. You have the emergency, and then you recover,” says Maurita Prato, Executive Director of LUSH Valley Food Action Society (LUSH Valley). “But our current state of emergency has lasted. We are facing a second wave of COVID cases, and the need for ongoing food security programs in our community has increased. While funding dwindles, the waitlist for their Good Food Box program currently has 60 households … and the list is growing.”

Since April 1st, 2020, LUSH Valley has worked with their community partners to establish two emergency Food Share programs to provide food to individuals and families in need. Their Hot Meal program has now delivered over 24,000 meals and the Good Food Box program has delivered 10,097 boxes of fresh healthy food. Both programs were started as a response to the pandemic and community need.

“Our Food Share programs have been more successful than we imagined,” she adds. “Looking back, the outpouring of volunteer, financial and in-kind support from our community has been phenomenal. We had initially thought that we would only be able to run programs until July, so being able to extend to December has been heartening.”

“Due to the nature of emergency funding, however, we were required to spend much of it over a relatively short time frame. Unfortunately, funding to run our Food Share programs has mostly dried up. We are stretching our budget and getting really creative in order to continue to run both programs until December 18th, which will be the last of our deliveries for 2020. We have a small amount of emergency funds to restart the Hot Meal Program, but currently not enough dedicated funding for our Good Food Box to go forward into 2021. We are still hopeful! We have seen the generosity of this community, and beyond, and we hope to see that again.”

In the Village of Cumberland, the Cumberland Community Schools Society (CCSS) is facing similar pressures. Last April, CCSS established an emergency Food Share and has since delivered over 1,000 Healthy Food Boxes, serving 131 Cumberland residents. The last delivery is scheduled for December 17.

“Through conversations with our clients, we know that the need for this emergency food share will continue for at least the next 6 months. Unfortunately, we don’t have the funding in place to continue the program into the New Year. The local community has been extremely generous, but larger sources of grant revenue are needed to keep the program operating as is”, says Sue Loveless, Executive Director, CCSS.

“At LUSH Valley, our staff, volunteers and community partners have been working diligently since mid-March,” adds Prato. “We will take a break over the holiday season, and spend time planning with the goal of finding a way to restart these programs in 2021. We may need to focus on subsidized rather than free services for most recipients in order to continue the program over the next few months and years.

“While the pandemic has revealed a widening gap of food insecurity- the root issues leading to food insecurity have been with us long before the pandemic. Though there is a recognized right to food in Canada, consistent access to healthy, nutritious food for all is lacking with more than 10,500 people in the Comox Valley experiencing some level of poverty and related food insecurity. Ultimately, systematic changes are needed to address these issues, which include changes towards universal basic income, core funding for food security initiatives, and support of local food economies. We do have an opportunity to build a more food secure future that supports our local food economies.”

For now, LUSH Valley is looking to raise the issues, secure more funds and make some changes with the goal of restarting the programs in 2021.

“We need help to continue to provide safe, dignified and healthy food access programs to our community’s most vulnerable people. We have seen incredible support for these programs through this first phase of the pandemic, and we are extremely grateful for that,” concludes Prato. “We are calling on that generosity again, to get us through the second wave and beyond.”

One way for individuals to contribute is through LUSH’s Holiday Campaign with a goal to raise $20,000 to support the organization’s overall operations by the end of 2020. The funding drive will include calls for donations, sale of their ‘Backyard Blend’ apple juice, and a Holiday Harvest Meal Fundraiser, with Chef James McKerricher and his Farmer’s Kitchen food truck, to provide a contactless take-away meal on Sunday, December 13.

Learn more about the Holiday Harvest Meal on our Events page.

Secure online donations can be made through Canada Helps, by e-transfer or by mail.


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