Working together on food programs

  • Dec. 28, 2009 9:00 a.m.

More than $100,000 a year in Gwaii Trust funding goes to food and feeding people in need, says executive director Errol Winter. That’s through school food programs, food banks, soup kitchens and other programs that Gwaii Trust regularly funds. Mr. Winter says there are so many well-intentioned groups out there trying to help, but he’s wondering if there isn’t a better way. In Masset and Old Massett, for example, there are five or six different groups either providing soup kitchen style meals or food bags to people. A similar group is providing food bags in the south half of the islands, but each of these small groups struggles to find volunteers, storage space and funds. “I’m trying to make an island-wide collaboration to deal with food issues that makes sense,” he says. Coordinating food buys for schools, banks and other charities on the island would benefit from economies of scale – 1000 pounds of potatoes can be purchased for a better price than 100, he says. Centralizing supplies and administration could be part of the solution he says, but these logistics have yet to be worked out. First, he wanted to approach the different groups involved in food charity work and see how they felt. The Greater Massett Food Bank is run out of the basement of the HG Society for Community Peace and executive director Brenda Byberg said she supports what Mr. Winter’s trying to do. “We’re fine with whatever happens,” she says, admitting the food bank work can be a little overwhelming, especially since her administrator Cathy Camp is running it off the side of her desk. “We’ve always hoped some organization would come along and take it off our plate,” she said. Mr. Winter has approached the Gwaii Trust board with his idea, and has received support, but would like to wait until the new directors come on board to see if they also agree. But the key part of all this, he says, is to ensure that the services are not affected. Mr. Winter says the cost of food has risen 40 percent over the last two years and families aren’t able to keep up. He thinks leveraging funding will also do the most good on the streets where people need the food. As well, if groups come together to discuss the issue island wide a better sense of, not only the need for food, but also more long and short-term solutions could arise. “I surely believe that we could do much more together than separately,” he said.