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Food bank stocks community fridge and pantry in reaction to social cuts

The Moose Jaw & District Food Bank, Moose Jaw Housing Authority, and Moose Jaw Families For Change have partnered to install a community fridge and pantry at High Park Towers as a pilot to increase help for hungry residents.
Community Fridge and Pantry at High Park Towers
Community fridge and pantry at High Park Towers

The Moose Jaw & District Food Bank, Moose Jaw Housing Authority, and Moose Jaw Families For Change have partnered to install a community fridge and pantry at High Park Towers as a pilot to increase help for hungry residents.

“Five per cent of Moose Jaw’s population currently accesses the Food Bank,” said Cheantelle Fisher, client resource representative at the Moose Jaw Food Bank and the main mind behind the project. “A lot of folks, especially (those) living on the SIS or the SAID program … are not making enough money to purchase groceries and pay their bills, pay their rent, and live.”

The Saskatchewan Income Support program (SIS) replaced the Saskatchewan Assistance Program and Transitional Employment Allowance in 2019. The program has been widely criticized by Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), income assistance recipients, the Federation of Sovereign First Nations (FSIN), the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), the Saskatchewan Landlords’ Association (SLA), and others.

The rapidly rising cost of living has worsened the situation, with no corresponding increase in aid amounts from the Sask Party, the Official Opposition claims.

When asked for clarification, Fisher confirmed that cuts to social services are the main driver of increased food bank usage.

On May 16, Fisher will speak at the Legislative Assembly to inform members of the desperation that food bank clients on SAID are experiencing.

The Moose Jaw & District Food Bank is seeing record numbers this year. So far, they have met the demand thanks to consistent community support — they don’t receive any regular government funding.

“One of the reasons we picked the High Park Towers building is because it is primarily seniors,” Fisher said. “And we’re seeing a lot of these folks in the food bank — we know that they’re not making enough to make ends meet. So, (we asked) what can we do to help them more?”

Many of their senior clients have mobility issues or lack access to a vehicle. When they can’t get a ride, or help from someone they know, they don’t eat.

Moose Jaw Housing contributed the fridge, pantry, and location for the project. Moose Jaw Families For Change operates in the building and offered their support.

“If we can keep food in this fridge, (residents) at least have a few options,” Fisher said. “They can go down to the fridge and grab some vegetables and a few eggs, or a package of coffee or cookies or soup.”

Fisher stocks the fridge and pantry twice a week. Users are asked to limit themselves to two items a day to make sure there is enough to go around.

The Food Bank will use client feedback to decide whether to expand the program, and what other locations should be included.

“We can tailor the program to the feedback that we’re hearing. This needs to be client-driven,” Fisher said. “This is us learning from and adapting it to the needs of the users.”

There is now a separate section at the food bank for community fridge- and pantry-specific donations, she added. Any support the community is interested in offering is welcomed.

Contact Fisher at mjfoodbank@gmail.com with ideas or to learn more.