City denies food bank funding

City council has denied a grant application from the Campbell River Food Bank to build an insulated cold room to store food donations.

Council, at its Monday meeting, said no because the request fell outside of the eligibility criteria for a grant-in-aid from the city.

Lesia Davis and Kevin Weighill, chair and vice-chair respectively of the Community Partnership Committee which evaluates all grant-in-aid applications, recommended the grant be denied for several reasons.

Number one, they said, the food bank society has received a permissive tax exemption from the city and as such, is not eligible for a grant-in-aid as per council policy. The food bank, which feeds approximately 2,200 people each month, was asking for a $21,385 grant to build an insulated cold room.

Debbie Willis, food bank manager, said there is a need to expand because the society is now receiving excess perishable stock from at least one grocery store, with more expected to sign on.

“Given our research, this recent increase of donations will multiply quickly, and has made us reconsider the methods we use to keep food safe for client consumption,” Willis wrote in a letter to council. “We can continue to fill all of our units to capacity or we can build something more economical.”

Willis said the insulated cold room would replace three of the food bank’s most energy-consuming units.

But Davis and Weighhill wrote in a report to council that the Community Partnership Committee felt the society did not meet the eligibility requirements for a grant-in-aid because it had “not demonstrated that they have made every effort to earn or acquire the desired funding from other sources.”

They said further, the society does not fall within council’s policy for grants-in-aid as it is a service group and not an arts and culture group.

Mayor Andy Adams said more and more the Community Partnership Committee has been having to make these difficult calls, and recommending that grants be turned down.

“There have been some tough decisions over the last number of years,” Adams said. “A lot of social elements have been coming in to challenge the parameters of the Community Partnership Committee.”

Coun. Michele Babchuk, who is a liaison to the committee, said the group worked hard on all of the applications but said the difficult decision was made to deny the food bank’s request because it fell outside of the mandate. But there may still be a ray of hope.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Coun. Babchuk gave notice that at the Feb. 9 council meeting she will put forward a motion that council use a newly established social development fund (of which the criteria has yet to be developed or approved) to provide a grant to the food bank for its cold room.