Thursday , 13 May 2021

Food Bank in threat of Losing Funding

Bonnyville Friendship Centre could lose funding to operate food bank

Laurie Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the Bonnyville Friendship Centre, spoke to the Town of Bonnyville Council on Tuesday evening, during the regular Council Meeting, about the state of the Friendship Centre’s funding in regards to operating the food bank. The food bank is in threat of losing funding to employ someone to manage the operations; thus the Friendship Centre would not have the funds to continue to provide the service. Fitzpatrick proposed that the Town assist in the funding, with a contribution of $20,000, over three years. Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski, visually appalled during the presentation that funding for the food bank could be revoked, agreed to not only write a letter to the organization, Urban Aboriginal Strategy, but also voted to include the funding in budget deliberations in late November.

“Over the past couple years, funding for the Friendship Centres has changed,” explains Fitzpatrick. “Our new funding, under the Federal Government’s Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS) has dramatically changed eligible expenses for the Friendship Centre.” Some of the changes include food bank employees, “this change has reached a point where our referral worker position is no longer eligible under the UAS.” Last year, 50 percent of the wages were eligible, explains Fitzpatrick, however this year they have cut all funding. “The position is now funded through donations.” Adding to the hardship of trying to cover the cost of the referral program, the food bank has seen high increase in usage.

Our stats have increased by 97% and we still see new clients each month. – Laurie Fitzpatrick Executive Director Bonnyville Friendship Centre

“Our referral position is the person that is in charge of the food bank. This person does all the intake of the clients,” as Fitzpatrick explains you cannot have a volunteer in this position, because there is a lot of confidential information that is needed to do this job effectively. The Friendship Centre is looking at more initiatives that will aid the food bank, such as increasing their capacity to take donations and implementing programs that will enhance clients’ ability to be self-sufficient. However, without a referral position person in place those initiative would not be able to take off. “Our goal is to show potential funders our ability to reduce dependencies, increase sustainability, and form meaningful partnerships within our communities.”

Fitzpatrick explains it’s not just a problem with funding the food bank, the Federal Government is also looking at whether or not they will keep the UAS operational. Which would raise an even bigger problem in funding the entire food bank program. “I am willing to write the individual, looking after the funding, strongly urging them to consider support. Would that help?” Mayor Gene Sobolewski says he is “appalled they would pull funding or delay funding.”

The food services the area of Glendon, Iron River, Ardmore, Muriel Lake, Bonnyville and in between. East of Ardmore is referred to Cold Lake and Kehewin Cree Nation has its own food bank program in the Nation. In September, the food bank served 153 clients, in 50 households, 61 of those clients were youths. “The community is really wonderful. Our shelves are stocked, right now; when we throw a call out there, the community helps get it stocked. But, that doesn’t help cover the wages of the referral position.”

The Friendship Centre has asked the Town of Bonnyville for $20,000 to be provided in three years:

  • Year 1 $10,000
  • Year 2 $5,000
  • Year 3 $5,000

Town Council voted to add the funding in their budget deliberations, which occur in November. Mayor Gene Sobolewski has offered to write a letter to the funding body, UAS, urging the importance of maintaining the program and the funding the referral position. Further, the Town has suggested that the Friendship Centre approach the Municipal District of Bonnyville for funding, as well.

About Jena Colbourne