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Over $60,000 to help Sea to Sky food projects

Three Squamish initiatives are being funded by federal grants
Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

In a time when the pandemic has jeopardized many people's ability to access food, the federal government announced over $60,000 in funding for Sea to Sky food security projects, with three of the donations going to Squamish organizations.

On June 24, local MP Patrick Weiler said in an online news conference that the Squamish Food Bank would be receiving about $12,000; the Cheakamus Foundation would receive $19,000 and Squamish Helping Hands would receive $15,000.

The sole out-of-Squamish donation will be going north to the Lil'wat Nation, which will receive $15,000.

Weiler said these grants are given at a time when people are showing much interest in localizing their food supply.

"I think right now there's more of an appreciation for the importance of having a localized food supply," said Weiler, noting COVID-19's effects.

"When you're more stressed than ever, it does really highlight the vulnerabilities when we don't have access to that, especially when we're relying on international supply chains."

Maureen Mackell of Helping Hands said that the additional funds come at a time of economic hardship.

"We saw with COVID-19 a huge increase in need and I think that has really shown us that we can't get lazy about this," said Mackell.

"We have to ensure that everybody can access food without stigma."

The funds going to Helping Hands will be used for the Under One Roof social housing and programming project that's going up in downtown Squamish.

Under One Roof will have a commercial kitchen, food storage capacity and a grocery store-type market.

It's partnered with the Squamish Food Bank, and its food hub is designed for "food rescue and repurposing."

Mackell said the ultimate goal is to create a "systems change" that may revamp ways in which food is distributed.

For instance, donated fruit that was simply put on shelves may instead be repurposed for other things, such as ingredients in baked goods, she said.

Mackell also spoke of the importance of reducing people's dependence on social programs by addressing societal conditions.

"If we just give food, then they won't go and find food for themselves," she said. "It's back to that whole idea that if we just do the Band-Aid, then we're not really getting to the real root of the problem."

The money going to the Squamish Food Bank will help vulnerable residents access food. The organization has been co-ordinating a centralized and co-ordinated food redistribution system.

Funds going to the Cheakamus Foundation will be for upgrades to a teaching kitchen at the Cheakamus Centre. This will allow for public programming for immigrants, First Nations, low-income families and others.

Money for the Lil'wat Nation's Nlep'calten project will go toward a community garden. Its goal is to develop a program that will supply food to the local school, elders, and other members of the community.

These grants were all part of the federal government's Local Food Infrastructure Fund. It's a five-year, $50-million program aimed at supporting community-based, not-for-profit organizations.

People who have food projects that fit that criteria are encouraged to apply.