Increased need for food sharing program on Lenox Island

Once a week, Carla Canada, manager of The Shoppe on Lenox Island, travels to Summerside to buy a truckload of food, then returns it to be collected in food boxes for community members. But as the need for support grows, she says she may need to go out more often.

The First Nation’s food-sharing program has been running for about two years with the help of funding from the Lennox Island Band office and health center.

“I am heartened to be able to help people when they need them most and to see their faces light up when he peeks at bags and things,” Canada said. “And they are so excited to be able to go home and cook meals for their families.”

While it’s called a “lunch box,” food items are placed in carry bags ready to go to individuals and families who have signed up for the food sharing program. (Then Nguyen/CBC)

Canada said it has noticed more individuals and families are turning to the program recently due to rising inflation, as well as personal reasons such as job losses and unexpected expenses.

“Over the past week, I’d say we’ve accumulated at least 30 community funds, which is a massive increase,” she said.

“More people are coming in than before.”

Get healthy food

While they are called food “boxes,” food items are actually loaded into carry bags. People can order the types of items they want to include.

Canada said the bags typically contain non-perishables and fresh vegetables grown on Lennox Island Greenhouse and Gardens. Sometimes, upon request, even household items are included.

“It can be four to six bags for a family depending on the size, and then you can go to them within 20 minutes after they order,” she said.

Jean Bernard, who has diabetes, is a regular participant in the Food Sharing Program. She said the program helped her and her grandson get healthy food, especially fresh vegetables.

“It really helps me because there aren’t a lot of foods I can eat because of the sugar intake,” she said.

A typical lunch box includes non-perishable items, fresh vegetables grown on Lenox Island, and sometimes household items like laundry detergent. (Then Nguyen/CBC)

The program runs live on Lenox Island, so Bernard and other community members don’t have to drive long distances to receive chests.

“This is a real big plus for the price of gas now,” she said.

She said a typical lunchbox for her family includes items like cereal, milk, and eggs and lasts about two weeks. She also likes to roast a “good size” rump, because it can go a long way.

“I’d cook it, cool it, and then put it in freezer bags. And whenever I wanted to have a quick dinner, I could just go into the freezer and heat it up on the stove and there’s a full dinner again,” she said.

That’s exactly what Carla Canada hopes the program will do: help members of the community eat nutritious meals instead of junk food.

“I was able to get them to eat whole meals instead of the 99-cent pasta and that’s all they ate because it was the cheapest thing they could get. Now they could have meat and vegetables, like basically whole meals and get all the nutrients in one day “.

“It will help them be healthier people, so they can do more things instead of feeling sick and groggy than just eating pasta and things like that.”

Besides dry food, the food sharing program also provides fresh and frozen foods to community members. (Then Nguyen/CBC)

Canada said it is beginning to see that weekly trips to buy food in Summerside may not be enough.

Weeks had passed when the shelves were so bare that she struggled to put together enough boxes, she said, due to the large and growing number of people in the community needing help with food.

“If we need to go on a second round during the week, that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.

“Hopefully we will be able to accommodate more people and be able to be available to more people within the community as well as outside the community.”

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