By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Launched at the end of December, the new Northumberland Eats pilot program is delivering hunger relief in the community during COVID-19.
Through this initiative – jointly co-ordinate by Northumberland County and Northumberland United Way – local community agencies have begun distributing vouchers to people in need that can be redeemed at participating food establishments throughout the county until the end of March. This program is also benefiting participating businesses, with dollars flowing to a variety of establishments rather than a single provider.
“So often people in need see their choice restricted. This pilot program is about investing in the local economy while increasing choice for people experiencing hardship,” Northumberland County Director of Community & Social Services Lisa Horne said in the press release.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our local businesses, who are often the backbone of so many community initiatives. Through this innovative program, we are pleased to be partnering with the business community to flow clients and business to local establishments, while these operators help us create opportunities for people – families, seniors, those experiencing a reduction in income during COVID-19, those experiencing homelessness – to access food supports.
“With a variety of supports, people can satisfy their dietary requirements, try new things and make independent decisions that work best for them. It is truly a community collaboration.”
Supported by Social Services Relief funding announced by the province in 2020 to enhance social services during the pandemic, this pilot program is anticipated to benefit more than 500 people per month for three months.
Vouchers in $5 and $10 denominations are being distributed by the two lead organizations, as well as through social services partners such as the Children’s Aid Society, Green Wood Coalition, the Help Centre, police services, mental health services, and local libraries and food banks.
A QR Code on each voucher links people with the most up-to-date list of participating establishments where the voucher can be redeemed. This list is also available at FoodHelpNorthumberland.cioc.ca.
“As our partners engage with community members as part of their everyday work, they will be sharing these vouchers – along with information on food resources available in the community – with those experiencing food insecurity,” Northumberland United Way Executive Director Bobbie Dawson added.
“Vouchers will provide a source of immediate hunger relief, with individuals then also directed to food banks, community kitchens and other food-security resources for further support. Right now, we have participating businesses in four area municipalities, with the intention of growing this list to locations in all seven Northumberland municipalities.”
Businesses interested in participating in the Northumberland Eats pilot program are invited to contact Northumberland United Way at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.