featured Poverty

Food banks: We cannot feed our way out of this crisis, but maybe couponing will help.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This morning Nick Jennery, executive director of Feed Nova Scotia told MLAs who are members of the Community Services Standing Committee that keeping food banks across Nova Scotia supplied is very difficult, but that his organization is managing, so far.  The question is, for how much longer?

“Every day we distribute 7,000 kilograms of food, which is close to 16,000 pounds, all across Nova Scotia. Half of that is fresh food and perishables,” said Jennery.

That job is getting harder, Jennery said. Food bank use in Nova Scotia in 2016 spiked 20.9% over the previous year—the highest increase among provinces in the country. It’s also a 40.9% increase over 2008.  

66% of foodbank users are on social assistance.

“We can’t feed our way out of this crisis,” Jennery told the MLAs, adding that he is concerned that Feed Nova Scotia may not be able to absorb any further increases in clientele. “I can’t make this model more efficient,” he said.

Meanwhile, the provincial government gives all of $12,000 to Feed Nova Scotia, a fraction of Feed Nova Scotia’s community-funded operating budget of roughly $3.5 million, Jennery told reporters after this morning’s meeting.  

If not money, MLAs had lots of helpful suggestions on how to run Feed Nova Scotia. Like inviting nutritionists to give talks, start more community gardens, hold more food drives, and yes, start couponing.

For my own section of my riding, South Woodside, which has quite a bit of poverty there, and who have trouble accessing Feed Nova Scotia because of the distance, I created my own little food bank in my office. And somebody in my office has been couponing, and let me tell you, couponing gets you a lot of stuff for very little money,” Liberal MLA Joyce Treen told Feed Nova Scotia executive director Nick Jennery.

“You might want to think about finding some people who are good at couponing, it’s amazing the amount of food you can get,” Treen said.

Jennery said he would look into it.

During a scrum with journalists after the meeting Jennery said that although Feed Nova Scotia is not requesting government’s financial support, it does have a request in for help in acquiring a larger facility.

“We are unable to deliver more perishable product let alone support the increase in clients,” said Jennery. “We have been talking (with government) about this for the past year. There is a review underway right now. But I think perhaps we need to be more assertive.”

A  new Farm Tax Credit program implemented last May has been extremely helpful, said Jennery. In the first eight months perishable food donations from farmers doubled to 200,000 kilograms, and could now possibly be expanded to include not just vegetables but also meat products and perhaps dairy.

Check out how you can support the excellent work of Feed Nova Scotia.

If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A pay wall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a group of 25 or so dedicated monthly sustainers.



  1. wow – this politician is supported by our tax dollars. Has a pension after only 2 years service and is a pathetic individual. Why don’t you offer your friend to the Food Bank so she can help with couponing. KNOB.

  2. Join my couponing group on Facebook, Nova Scotia Couponers, for great sales and weekly coupon matchup lists based on our own local sales. I have almost ten years experience couponing in Canada, and can help you save some money on your household budget!

  3. These absurd remarks by Liberal MLA Joyce Treen (part of the government caucus) remind me of when Ontario social services minister David Tsubouchi (under the Mike Harris Tory government in Ontario) was overseeing drastic cuts to the province’s welfare system, and suggested welfare recipients could make ends meet by *haggling with shopkeepers over tins of tuna*.

    He later published a “welfare shopping list” that included pasta without sauce, bread without butter, and the elusive 69-cent tuna can.


  4. Although your article doesn’t mention it, Nova Scotia’s Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard was quoted as saying that “if raising income assistance rates was the answer it would have happened decades ago”.

    Such absurdity — and completely offensive.

    To begin with, no provincial government here has ever attempted a significant increase in social assistance rates to raise folks out of grinding poverty.

    Raising social assistance rates dramatically, as well as a significant increase to the provincial minimum wage, investing in a continuum of housing (subsidized non-profit, supported housing, coop housing and other housing programs to ensure that folks are adequately housed within their financial means), instituting fully-funded childcare programs to ensure universally-accessible childcare to all parents without waiting lists or prohibitive costs, and jobs programs and fully-funded training programs to raise skill levels and ensure that there are good quality jobs, are the answers we need to ensure that folks have food security and don’t have to rely on food banks.

    (See https://twitter.com/mariekewalsh/status/849367205598900225 for quote attribution)

  5. It is absurd that our provincial government does not provide adequate financial support to people needing social assistance that enables them to eat healthy food. It is offensive that an MLA suggests “couponing” as a way to help and that the government contributes only $12,000./year to the Food Bank. Expand the Farm Tax Credit now and provide enough social assistance for folks to buy food.

  6. We need jobs, jobs and more jobs. The dependence on food banks and social services will diminish. I’d wager most people would prefer to earn their own way than be forced to find other means to provide for themselves and their families. It’s time our governments realize why we elected them. Stop export of our resources and invest in business and industry in our own country. Stop the handouts to the big corporate leeches.

  7. Some years ago (under the Family Benefits social assistance model) there was a petition going around in an effort to prevent social assistance recipients from falling farther and farther behind. It was a request that assistance be linked to the cost of living – or to inflation – in order to keep the amount provided as “livable”.

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