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Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna

Ottawa announces funding for local infrastructure, food surplus program

Thursday, August 13, 2020 @ 3:17 PM | By Ian Burns

The federal government has created a new program to help local governments and community partners adapt to local economic, health and social challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as providing money for agricultural producers to bring surplus food to people in need.

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna said Aug. 13 that the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative will provide up to $31 million in federal funding for smaller-scale local projects under three main themes: creating safe and vibrant public spaces, improving mobility options and digital solutions.

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna

McKenna said the initiative will help “breathe life into these small projects that can have a big impact as local governments, Indigenous communities and their non-profit partners rethink public spaces and how they deliver services to people.”

“Whether it’s pop-up bike paths, community gardens, art installations or Wi-Fi hot spots, Canadians want to work, play and learn in safe, vibrant and inclusive communities,” she said. “Canada’s infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country and builds stronger communities.”

Potential projects could include expanding outdoor seating on streets, remodelling playgrounds to allow for proper physical distancing, building multimodal paths that would allow bikes, scooters and personal mobility devices to share space with pedestrians and cars, or creating digital apps to allow residents to access municipal services remotely. Additional details on the application process will be available soon.

The government also revealed details about the Innovative Surplus Food Rescue Program, a $50-million initiative to redistribute approximately 12 million kilograms of surplus food to vulnerable Canadians. These surpluses were created because the COVID-19 pandemic largely shut down the restaurant and hospitality industry, leaving many producers without a key market for their food commodities.

The program awarded contributions to eight organizations such as Food Banks Canada to acquire and redistribute products such as potatoes, walleye, chicken, turkey and eggs. Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau characterized the program as a “win-win.”

“Not only are we helping producers who cannot sell their goods to restaurants, but we are also aiding Canadians that have had to seek help from food banks,” she said. “These eight impressive partnerships between food businesses and not-for-profit organizations, target those food commodities that had significant and urgent surpluses, making a difference both at the level of the producer and the food bank, from coast-to-coast-to-coast.”

According to Statistics Canada, one in seven Canadians indicated that they live in a household where there was food insecurity over a one- month period during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, there were 1.1 million visits to food banks and 5.6 million meals served on average each month.

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