One thing the coronavirus pandemic has taught residents of the privileged western world is to appreciate the basic things in life — like food.
Soon after a pandemic was declared in March, fear of food shortages rose locally as elsewhere, and hoarding even occurred. Thankfully that trend and the fear dissipated, and supplies of most necessary goods have been adequate.
But on the other end of the spectrum were the vulnerable members of our community, and those suddenly made economically insecure due to loss of jobs or income from independent business activities. They couldn’t have stockpiled cans of beans if they wanted to.
On Salt Spring, concern about individuals and families not being able to buy or access the food they need was and is distressingly real. The Salt Spring Food Bank has seen an estimated 25 per cent increase in use of its services and Community Services’ Harvest Food Programs coordinator Simone Cazabon says further demand is expected when the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is phased out in the fall. Some 136 households have used the Farmers Market Nutritional Coupon program this year. That initiative, which sees people given $21 (in coupon form) each week, is particularly effective since all funds go to farmers and food producers at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market. Relying largely on local donations, Salt Spring’s characteristic generosity came through to raise more money for it than any other community in B.C.
Those involved in agriculture also rose to the challenge to create the Emergency Agriculture Response and Recovery Plan. One action in that plan was a call for greater support for island farmers and use of vegetable box subscriptions. That resulted in a 157 per cent increase in demand in 2020 over the previous year, or 603 households versus 235 in 2019.
The Salt Spring Island Foundation’s Emergency Preparedness and Relief Fund has also seen great support, with the foundation quickly exceeding its $200,000 goal — even more evidence that islanders have a hearty appetite for food security programs and COVID-related philanthropy in general.
With no end in sight to the way we are living at present, the generosity, awareness and creativity in meeting basic needs that has been demonstrated so far is laudable and must continue.