January 22nd, 2024

Community Food Access program demand quadrupled, schools one quarter of applications

HALIFAX – More and more families are struggling to afford their grocery bills causing greater demand on programs that help people get healthy food. Data obtained through a Freedom of Information request shows that the number of applications for the Community Food Access and Literacy (CFAL) program more than quadrupled in 2023 with 129 applications, 100 applications more than in 2022. Almost a quarter of the applications were from schools.

“We know people are struggling to afford their bills. And often parents skip meals to ensure their children eat. We can see the impact of skyrocketing costs on Nova Scotians; it’s frustrating that the Houston government is failing to do the same,” said NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “Everything from the cost of power to fuel to food and medication has gone up and Nova Scotia families are feeling the strain. Now we see shocking increases in demand for government grants. This really shouldn’t be a surprise and it’s why Nova Scotia New Democrats continue to push for a universal school food program at every school in the province.”

The CFAL provides funds to organizations to improve local neighbourhood food access for vulnerable Nova Scotians through the Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage Department. Last year’s 129 applications requested a total of $439,000, however only $100,000 is set aside for this program.

Debby MacDonald retired last year after working in the Dartmouth South community for 19 years. She worked at Southdale, North Woodside, Prince Arthur Junior High, and Dartmouth South Academy. She started volunteering at the school breakfast programs around 14 years ago.

“The number of students accessing the program has grown substantially over the past four years. The funding for the school breakfast program wasn't always enough to last the year and I would reach out the community for food donations and apply for grants,” said MacDonald. “Children learn better when they have full bellies. A healthy breakfast is also important for brain development. Our government needs to provide a national breakfast and lunch food program. There are students whose only meals may be at school. In a wealthy country no child should go hungry.”

Earlier this month, Nick Jennery from Feed Nova Scotia told MLAs that a number of the food banks in his network discreetly give food to schools in an effort to ensure students have the food they need.