The COVID-19 pandemic has affected thousands of people across Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie & Algoma District is no different. Panic buying has forced stores to change how food is purchased, causing scarcity of all sorts of essential items. Its challenging times like these that make issues surrounding poverty, especially food insecurity, glaringly obvious.
There is, however, always a silver lining.
In the Spring of 2019, the United Way Sault Ste. Marie & Algoma District and Second Harvest, a food rescue organization based in Toronto, and one of the leaders in food security efforts in Canada, established a partnership to develop and expand food rescue efforts in the North. This partnership has given the United Way some tools to teach and share the value of food rescue in our community. This relationship led to the most recent donation: 15,000 pounds of fresh produce with a value that far surpasses $150,000 from the Sysco Warehouse in Toronto. Travis McLean, General Manager of Lock City Dairies drove through the night to pick up the 26 skids of food and bring them back to Sault Ste. Marie before the produce expired.
“To be able to rescue a huge volume of produce like this is remarkable,” says Food Resource Centre Manager, Jessica Laidley. “This was an opportunity that was born out of something scary and upsetting (COVID-19), but is now feeding hundreds of people across our community fresh, high quality food. Our ability to network and have the cold storage capacity we do was identified as a huge gap when we began this project. And now, local emergency food providers can distribute this food where they see a need.”
United Way’s Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre was established in 2018 to address the impact of poverty and those living with food insecurity issues in our community. The Food Resource Centre acts as a distribution hub for local food banks, soup kitchens, and support agencies – totalling 30 altogether with Soup Kitchen Community Centre, Salvation Army Food Bank, and St. Vincent’s Place as the primary focus. The Food Resource Centre’s target population is already established organizations and not the general public, as many banks already exist and know how to best distribute food. The Food Security division of the United Way (Harvest Algoma) is here to provide support to those banks as well as develop educational programs and other resources related to food for the community.
This donation could not be made possible without the support of Second Harvest, Sysco Systems, Lock City Dairies, and the dozens of agencies who access food on a regular basis to support their clients. Local businesses have also been stepping up to donate food and include Scott Coffee Co., Shabby Motley Handcraft, Boots & Saddles Roadhouse, Marconi Club of Sault Ste. Marie, Freshii, Sault College, Food Basics, Rome’s Your Independent Grocer, and Metro. Thank you to these businesses for the support over the last couple of weeks.
For more information about United Way’s Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre and what you can to do support us, visit www.uwssmalgoma.ca.