Good Food for the Community Remains the Focus at The Table

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Healthy meal from Dads and Kids in the Kitchen program

 

A recent article in the Perth Courier and online on the Inside Ottawa Valley website (Fenik has change of heart on food bank funding) gives some misleading information about The Table’s budget and operations. We would like to respond to the article with the following clarifications and encourage anyone in the community who continues to have questions or concerns about our operations to bring them forward to us.

In 2011, the former Perth and District Food Bank took a bold step to revision itself as something more than a place that handed out food. In partnership with Community Food Centres Canada the food bank has evolved into a community space that continues to provide food to individuals and families in need, but also creates a positive social atmosphere, improves people’s knowledge and skills around healthy eating, and creates opportunities for people to better understand and take action on issues related to poverty and food insecurity.

Here are a few results from our programs in 2015:

• 2,282 Perth and area community members (approximately 580 children and the remainder adults) were impacted by our programs;
• 819 program sessions were offered including, the Good Food Bank, Community Meals, food skills programs, garden sessions, and social justice and advocacy programs;
• 3,840 Food Bank visits were made;
• 13,079 healthy meals and 1,278 healthy snacks were served;
• 74% of program participants told us they are making healthier food choices;
• 93% of program participants told us they feel a part of a community here;
• 58% of program participants told us the Table has contributed to improvements in their mental health.

Delivering the diversity and quality of programs that are offered at The Table is possible thanks to a team of skilled program staff who are supported by the Executive Director, a fundraiser and a part time administrative assistant. The program staff coordinates the work of over 100 active volunteers who are also vital to the success of The Table. We are fortunate to have extremely dedicated and committed staff and volunteers. While many smaller foodbanks are run largely or solely on volunteers, the Community Food Centre model we are implementing depends on a competent staff team.

The Perth Courier quotes Perth Town Councillor Jim Boldt as stating at a recent budget meeting that “If I am a John Q. Public, and giving $1 to The Table…63 cents are, in effect, going to salaries and benefits,”. His calculations are based on our 2014 financial statements, and reflect the percent of our total expenses that go to salaries and benefits. Councillor Boldt’s rudimentary calculation ignores the fact that in 2014, we received over $300,000 dollars from Community Food Centres Canada to implement the model we are following. The vast majority of those funds went to staff salaries and benefits which totaled $367,000.  There were also federal funds used for staff salaries. So, in reality, very little of the local donations we receive are used for salaries. These unrestricted funds are used for food and operating costs that are not covered by Community Food Centres Canada or other grants. Local donations, such as the Town of Perth’s annual $15,000 grant help us to leverage those external funds, which actually exceed those funds raised locally. For every dollar raised locally, The Table brings about $1.25 into the community.

Councillor Boldt also expressed concern that The Table is moving away from providing food to people to focus more on advocacy. The Table has and will continue to have a component of our work where, in collaboration with others, we seek to raise awareness about and address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity. This education and advocacy work is led by a staff member who dedicates about a 1/3 of her time to this part of our programming. We hope to expand this part of our work but this will be limited due to Canada Revenue Agency restrictions on "political activities" by charities. Our education and advocacy work has not been developed at the expense of food programming. Our budget numbers over the years make this very clear: in 2011, the Perth and District Food Bank had a food budget of $36,000. In 2015, The Table spent $61,000 on food for the Good Food Bank and $46,000 on food for community meals and food skills programs. Adding to this increased capacity are substantial increases in food donations from community food drives and donations of fresh produce from local farmers.

We are very proud of our programs and the impact they are having in the community. We are open to discussing all aspects of our operations and welcome people to stop by and visit the Centre during a Community Meal so they can get a sense of what goes on here. For more information about our programs and their impacts please see our 2015 Program Stats and Stories Report.