The Food Bank Challenge

When the Whitehorse Food Bank came into hard times this month, the Yukon Employees’ Union and the Public Service Alliance of Canada answered the call.

Food donations had slowed down over the long summer months, leaving many of the food bank’s shelves empty and making it hard for the staff to put together healthy and nutitious baskets for families in need in Whitehorse.

That’s when Tammi Sikorski from YEU Local Y010 launched the Food Bank Challenge in Whitehorse, urging other Locals and businesses in the area to chip in to restock the food bank’s barren shelves.

And did they ever acecept the challenge!  In all, six Locals jumped on board to to lend a hand to the food bank. Together, they raised more than $6,500, and with a host of nearly 20 volunteers, they descended on  the Real Canadian Superstore for a staggering shopping spree, leading a procession of dozens of shopping carts chock full of cereals, canned soups, juice boxes, crackers, cookies, pastas and other household staples.

In classic fireman drill fashion, they loaded up two trucks to the brim with donations and refilled the shelves of the food bank.

All in all, it was a fantastic show of community solidarity. See the full story in the Yukon News here!

Thanks to the success of the campaign, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Union of Northern Workers is launching a similar campaign to help resupply the Hay River Soup Kitchen, which has been forced to close down because of a shortage of donations trickling in. The Soup Kitchen is still offering a hot meal three days a week, but can’t meet the demand for food baskets.

Union Locals in the Northwest Territories are banding together in a pilot project to restock the food bank, and aims to bolster their services to offer more long-term solutions to the shortage, a strategy that can then be applied to other food banks in need across the North.

But while unions are always prepared to step up to the plate and give back to the community, the fact that there are shortages at food banks at all is an issue the federal and territorial governments need to address.

While food banks are necessary and are by no means a new system, they aren’t a real way to address hunger and poverty long-term.

It’s because of cuts or changes to federal programs like the food mail program that the North has suffered more than the rest of Canada when it comes to affordable groceries. With the number of familes that use food banks in the North continuing to rise, it’s a problem governments can’t continue to sweep under the rug.