Like other municipalities around the world, the community of Thunder Bay and its immediate surrounding areas were caught unprepared by the impacts on the food system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there was no coordinated body in place in the community prior to the pandemic to address the increase in food security challenges this emergency created, community-based organizations, institutions, and agencies came together in an ad-hoc way to ensure that no one went hungry.
In late 2020, the Thunder Bay & Area Food Strategy took on coordinating this informal group and undertook research on the emergency food response that occurred during the first few months of the pandemic. This resulted in the publication of a report entitled Learning from Emergency Food Response During COVID-19 in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The result of this work identified the need to create an emergency food response plan for Thunder Bay and its surrounding communities to be better prepared to address food security challenges at a community-wide level in the face of future crises.
The process of developing a Community Emergency Food Response Plan (CEFRP) aims to support vulnerable populations, who may face food insecurity on a regular basis, during a community-level emergency where there may be increased pressures on food access. The development CEFRP can best be understood as creating the infrastructure of a parachute—made up of key resources and relationships—that can be activated in the face of any emergency. Once activated, the response will be unique to the circumstances of that emergency, while leveraging the resources and skills of the broader network of stakeholders. From this research, TBAFS will undertake building the infrastructure for an emergency food response ‘parachute’.