As the cost of groceries, housing and other necessities continue to rise, it can be a struggle to fill the fridge and put meals on the table. More people are dealing with food insecurity, which means not being able to afford nutritious food to meet your needs and the needs of your household.
Being food insecure can mean cutting back on the amount or quality of the food you buy, eating less or skipping meals altogether. It is a factor in how healthy you are – one of several social determinants of health. Food insecurity can lead to poorer mental and physical health, social isolation and barriers to employment.
In 2022, the number of people living in food-insecure households grew in every province, with 18.4% of Canadians unable to afford the food they need. The rate is highest among Black people (39.2%) and Indigenous peoples (33.4%), reflecting the inequality and racism that racialized communities experience in their everyday lives.
While a lasting solution to food insecurity means adopting policies that will boost income and address the socioeconomic factors of poverty, there are things you can do on a community level to help those experiencing food insecurity.
With fall in full swing, it’s a good time to support local farmers and producers – especially when you can also support food-insecure community members. The Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Nourishing Communities food coupon program provides community organizations with coupons, called “food bucks,” to distribute to households experiencing food insecurity. People use the coupons to buy food at one of the 33 markets across the province that take part in the program. Food bucks are used widely at markets, so there’s no stigma attached to their use. In fact, when people donate to the program, they can choose to receive half of their donation amount back in the form of food bucks to use at their own local farmers’ market.
Last year, the program provided $390,000 in food bucks to 560 households across Nova Scotia. The program encourages people to eat healthy local foods and participants reported feeling more connected to their community.
Churches, community groups and neighbourhoods across Nova Scotia have started community pantries or cupboards to provide easier access to food and other essentials. People are encouraged to drop off what they can and take what they need. All visits are anonymous.
Gather non-perishable items, such as canned goods, cereal, pasta, rice, granola bars, oil, sugar, flour, tea and coffee, cake mixes, salt, pepper and spices, as well as pet and school supplies. Toiletries and cleaning products are always in demand – toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, dish and laundry detergent, and period products like pads and tampons. Keep in mind that free-standing community cupboards may not be able to operate as usual in winter weather. Check with organizers if they plan to operate at an inside location over the winter.
Thinking of starting a pantry in your area? Read a list of guidelines on how to get started.
Donate your time
If you’d like to provide more hands-on support to people in your community, consider volunteering at your local food bank or soup kitchen. Volunteer your time or, if you have the means to do so, make a financial donation. Oftentimes, contributing funds means staff can purchase the items most in need.
Do you need food support?
If you’re struggling to get the food you need for your household, don’t wait to find support. Visit the Feed Nova Scotia website for a list of food banks and meal programs in your area. You can also call 211 (or visit www.ns.211.ca and select “Food Support”) to learn about other food support and resources that are available in your community.