As grocery bills soar, Food First NL’s new plan aims to make sure everyone gets enough to eat
Standing in the St. John’s Community Market on Thursday, the heads of Food First NL laid out its annual report and how the group plans to move forward in the face of rising food costs.
CEO Josh Smee said the province’s food insecurity is not a problem that community organizations can solve.
“This is a problem that governments need to take really seriously, and so part of that is keeping this in the public conversation and keeping recognizing that people are going hungry in the province. Every day.”
Speaking to about 70 members of the public and stakeholders, Smee also announced the group’s new mission.
“Our new vision is a Newfoundland and Labrador where everyone can eat with dignity and joy,” he said.
“I think that has helped focus our minds as a team on what we need to do to make that happen.”
Earlier this month Food First NL announced it would be shutting down its community food helpline because the advocacy organization isn’t able to keep up with demand.
“The helpline itself just can’t work with the level of demand that we are seeing,” Smee said.
“The other piece is that we are hoping to advocate as loudly as we can for the large-scale relief that is what’s needed to lift that demand.”
During a daylong event that included Food First NL staff speaking directly to individuals about the work they do, along with food skills workshops, Smee stressed that access to food is a human right.
“A lot of the work that we have been doing for 20 years, really, comes in under advancing the right to food,” Smee said.
“Whether that is helping people access food, whether that is helping people produce food, helping people connect around food, all of that really comes under that human right and we really want to focus on that.”
But the step forward comes during a time of massive uncertainty over food. Costs are soaring and inflation is rising, making access to food costs prohibitively expensive for some in the province.
“I think we know the cost of living crisis is dominating food security in this province right now, and we just cannot possibly sustain the 10 per cent per year food increase that we are having with the system that we got,” said Smee.
“It is leaving so many people behind.”
Food First NL is also looking to expand its reach by adding jobs to put people on the ground across the province, said Smee.
“We are calling them food animators and they are going to be there to make community-based food actions happen so people can keep an eye out for that. We will be hiring in the next few months,” he said.
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