How P.E.I. monks are continuing free food box campaign despite rising inflation

·3 min read
Monks at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) have been running the End Hunger in P.E.I. food box initiative since 2018. (Submitted by Venerable Dan/GEBIS - image credit)
Monks at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) have been running the End Hunger in P.E.I. food box initiative since 2018. (Submitted by Venerable Dan/GEBIS - image credit)

Buddhist monks on P.E.I. have been raising money over the past few years to provide free food boxes to Islanders through their End Hunger on P.E.I. campaign.

But rising inflation has made that more difficult, said Venerable Dan, one of the monks at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) in Heatherdale.

"Initially, it used to take around $25 to fill a food box. Now, it takes about $40," he said.

Each box contains rolls and fresh produce made and grown by the monks, as well as canned goods and dry food items — enough to feed a family of three or four, six meals.

Thinh Nguyen/CBC
Thinh Nguyen/CBC

Despite rising costs, the monks are committed to keeping the initiative going, Dan said, so they've been finding new ways to raise funds.

"We received the help from so many random people, and there [are] now some Island families who are in need of help with food. This is something we can help with," he said.

'A tremendous effort'

The group started the End Hunger in P.E.I. initiative in 2018. Every month they hold fundraisers in communities including Charlottetown, Montague and Summerside, where they sell goods and collect monetary donations.

The money they collect goes toward creating the food boxes, which are then delivered by volunteers to the homes of those who have signed up for the program online.

Besides doing more fundraisers, the monks have started to receive donations from around the world as well as from local businesses to help with the initiative.

"That's a very encouraging sign," he said.

Thinh Nguyen/CBC
Thinh Nguyen/CBC

Dan said the campaign has also received support from some younger monks at the monastery, who have been doing some arts and crafts projects to help raise more money.

"The most recent project is someone was making lighthouses because they saw so many lighthouses around P.E.I.," he said.

"And it also has a symbolic value. When you're down, when you're depressed, a lighthouse seems to provide warmth and comfort and guidance. So we were able to use that to raise money actually several times."

Dan said the initiative could not be done without the help of about 50 volunteers across the Island who help deliver the food boxes.

One of them is Stanhope resident Lori Fagan.

She said she became interested in volunteering with the monks when she saw how the food box project was helping to relieve food insecurity for some people in rural areas who can't access food banks because of not having a vehicle or due to privacy concerns.

"I think it fills a need on P.E.I.," she said.

Fagan said she has noticed that recently it has been taking the monks longer to raise enough funds for the food boxes.

"The monks are just waiting till they get enough," she said. "It's usually 250 to 300 people who need this, so it's a lot of boxes to fill. They've been baking so many rolls and doing sales, so it's a tremendous effort."

Thinh Nguyen/CBC
Thinh Nguyen/CBC

Fagan said she appreciates the monks trying to keep the initiative going despite rising costs of food because she's been hearing a lot from families and individuals about how these food boxes are needed.

"There was a family, their husband was contractor and got injured, and they need a lot of help," she said.

"Sometimes we get an unexpected big bill or something, and we don't have enough money to maybe get the food or we have to pay our mortgage or we have to pay rent. And it can be anything like that, and they need help."

The monks will be delivering 250 food boxes Island-wide by the end of this month. Islanders who would like to apply for a food box or volunteer to deliver can visit the About Monks Facebook page.

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