Dorchester Moving Forward volunteer Wendy Keats said the rising cost of living and the distance Dorcherster residents need to travel to the nearest grocery store are finding more people going hungry.
“We started a community fridge about a year and a half ago. At first we had about 30 people using it, within a year it was over 80 and the needs have just continued to grow,” Keats said on Thursday .
She said food security wasn’t originally part of her organization’s mandate, but they could no longer ignore the growing problem.
New Brunswick has the second highest rate of rate of food insecurity in the country, according to a report by Proof released in 2022.
Keats’ organization will be opening a food hub in Dorchester, which will include lunch programs for students, a teaching kitchen to help people learn how to make healthy foods, and programs to reduce food waste.
The program will be in addition to the community’s existing food bank. The initiative required a significant investment in infrastructure, such as a commercial kitchen.
$45,000 of the required startup cost was donated by Fredericton-based philanthropists Earl and Sandy Kitchen-Brewer.
Keats said they turned to private donations because they were largely unable to receive federal or provincial funding.
“We tried really hard to find funding for infrastructure and it was impossible. We spent two years and hundreds of hours in grant proposals and kept getting turned down,” Keats said, noting that they did receive some funds from Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton.
New Brunswick posted a $1 billion surplus for 2022.
In response to a Global News inquiry about money invested to combat food insecurity, a provincial government spokesperson said there is a grant program “for food banks to adopt innovative approaches to build community partnerships and improve client services.” as well as “grants to support community-led solutions and programs that build capacity to address food security within individuals and communities across the province.”
The provincial government also donated $2 million to Food Depot Alimentaire to distribute food to food banks across the province earlier this year.
Keats said her organization will use the equipment to generate revenue for the upkeep.
“We’ll be doing things like renting our commercial kitchen out, we may be doing a small cafe, local producers retail outlet, so different revenue strategies to at least cover the cost of food and production,” she said.
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