Community Connections Revelstoke cuts positions and reduces food bank hours
Melissa Hemphill says the loss of her position and the work she was doing at Community Connections sent ripples through the province.
“It was interpreted as a loss of momentum,” said the former co-director of community outreach and development, and food security coordinator.
Hemphill was terminated without cause earlier in the fall. Hemphill says Community Connections released its Food Security Strategy in early 2023, and her role was to implement it. “There’s still a lot of work to do,” she said.
Community Connections Revelstoke sent out a press release at the end of October announcing that it’s reducing its hours. Food distribution days used to be Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Starting this week they are Tuesdays between 3 and 6 pm, and Thursdays between 10 am and 1 pm.
In the release it says the change is being made to ensure the longevity of the food bank program.
The press release also tells people to let Community Connection know if the change of hours impacts people’s access to food.
“Stories of how this service reduction will or may affect you can be used to advocate for more funding, which will be used to run a more accessible service.” It says.
It advises people to report to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food insecurity and food bank use is higher than it’s ever been across the country. The number of people using the food bank is up over 100 per cent across rural B.C., according to Dan Huang-Taylor, the executive director of Food Banks B.C. Household budgets aren’t keeping up to rising costs.
Huang-Taylor says an increasing number of people with full time jobs aren’t able to make ends meet. “This category of working poor is one of the most alarming trends we’re seeing,” he said.
Donations to food banks started dropping dramatically in 2022.
“Everyone has seen the drop,” Huang-Taylor said, “we’re hearing reports of up to 40 per cent in some cases.”
Sheena Wells is the executive director of Community Connections. Stoke FM reached out to Wells and board members but did not get a response. She and its board of directors made the decision to eliminate three positions at the organizations. This includes the two co-directors of community outreach and development roles. Along with Hemphill, Erin MacLachlan, the harm reductions coordinator, lost her job. She was given a different position at Community Connections. A third person also lost their job but Stoke FM has not verified their name or position.
The co-director positions were created in 2020 after the retirement of long-time director, Patty Larson. These positions are taxpayer funded, with the money coming from the city of Revelstoke and Columbia Shuswap Regional District.
Revelstoke has been a leader in food security work through the province while she was in her role, Melissa Hemphill told Stoke FM News, which is why its loss is seen as a loss of momentum.