The City of Delta has committed to help keep the shelves of North Delta’s “little pantries” stocked over the next year as it works to develop a longer-term plan to address food insecurity in the community.
Council April 25 voted unanimously to provide funding of up to $2,000 per month to support the Nick’s Nook community pantries at Northside Community Church and New Hope Church in North Delta, and to reassess the need for continued funding by the city after one year.
The pantries, which opened in July and December of 2021, provide those who need it with no-barrier, anonymous access to non-perishable food and personal hygiene items — there’s no registration required, members of the community can take items as needed, or leave items for others.
“Nick’s Nook is the first no-barrier [pantry in North Delta] — think about that, no barrier. You don’t have to do anything to be able to come and take food out of here or to deposit into here,” Cathie Watters, the North Delta community builder with United Way, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the pantry at New Hope Church in February. “It’s no judgement, no shame and it contains food staples for everyone.”
“The premise is simply this: take what you need for today, leave what you can for tomorrow.”
The initiative was spearheaded by a neighbourhood group called Magical Hearts, with funding from United Way, as a way to address food insecurity in North Delta. A team of volunteers clean and maintain the pantries on a regular basis, with regular calls put out via local Facebook groups when donations are running low.
Council also directed staff to, as a matter of priority, identify options for the provision of emergency food services in North Delta and continue to work with community partners and senior levels of government to develop a longer-term sustainable strategy to address food insecurity in Delta.
Monday’s vote followed a motion by Mayor George Harvie on April 11 asking staff to report back on the prospect of funding the Nick’s Nook pantries and work to identify options for a temporary community emergency food bank in North Delta and present them to council as soon as possible.
“I’m asking to move very quickly on this to see what we can do on a temporary basis.”
In presenting his motion, Harvie referred to two previous reports by city staff — one on poverty reduction from Jan. 11, 2021, and one focused on food security from Jan. 27, 2022 — noting these types of reports take time to compile and quoting from latter report, which stated that “any implementation of recommendations from the study would take 10 to 12 months.”
“We can’t wait any longer. Our people in North Delta do not have a food bank like South Delta does” Harvie said at council April 11. “We need to do more and we need to do it now. They cannot wait for another 10 to 12 months.”
Harvie noted the proposed actions were not intended to replace Nick’s Nook or related efforts run by local non-profits such as Deltassist (which runs an emergency food program) and the Surrey Food Bank (which distributes food every other week at Northside Community Church in North Delta).
Rather, any action by the city is meant to supplement programs which are already at or beyond capacity.
A staff report produced ahead of Monday’s vote notes a recent poverty assessment undertaken for the city shows that more than 10,000 people in Delta experience poverty, with seniors, youth, recent immigrants and people with disabilities disproportionately impacted.
“Many people struggle with inter-related concerns of housing affordability, limited public transportation, food insecurity, and access to child care,” the report states.
It goes on to say the pandemic, rising inflation and increasing costs of goods and services have exacerbated the situation and put more people on or over the poverty line.
“While food banks do not address the root causes of food insecurity, they are a necessary short-term stop-gap for many families and individuals struggling to make ends meet,” the report says.
— with files from Lauren Collins