By Sulz, Dave on April 14, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the Canadian economy has caused an unprecedented number of Canadians to worry about their ability to put food on the table.
The federal government has contributed $100 million to help food organizations meet the urgent needs of vulnerable Canadians. Second Harvest, the country’s largest food rescue organization, is using its $4.5-million allotment to assist smaller food charities and non-profits, particularly those in rural areas such as southern Alberta.
“We know well-established charities and non-profits can access resources that smaller organizations – local groups, shelters, local meal programs, and others – simply cannot,” says Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel. “Money for these groups means food on the tables of hungry families across Canada. Without these groups, we risk whole communities and vulnerable populations falling between the gaps of our social safety net.”
Toward that end, Second Harvest is making available grants of up to $20,000 to smaller food rescue groups – “those organizations that are overlooked and underresourced,” says Nikkel.
While Second Harvest is based in Ontario, its funds “will be allocated across the country. We’re trying to spread it through each province so it’s equitable.”
Groups that don’t have access to the federal money through other agencies – such as Food Banks Canada, in the case of many local food banks – can apply for one of the Second Harvest grants by going to the organization’s website, FoodRescue.ca.
Second Harvest has been working to scale up its operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, which Nikkel says has put additional pressure on social programs. The organization primarily serves as a conduit to connect food producers and companies that have food surpluses with local organizations that can distribute that food to those in need in their communities.
Nikkel says 58 per cent of the food produced in Canada goes to waste and Second Harvest’s mission is “to make sure that food finds a home.”
She adds there are more than 60,000 food organizations in Canada working to feed those in need, and by connecting those agencies with businesses that have surplus food, more people can be helped.
“While we are already working with generous food donors like Loblaw, Starbucks, Sysco and so many more, we know there is more work needed,” says Nikkel. “There are other food businesses, for example from farms who need to find a home for their crops, to smaller community stores, that are out there. We can get them connected within their own communities and they could make a real difference.”
The Second Harvest website features a free, easy-to-use donation platform that connects businesses with food surpluses to charities and non-profits in their own backyards.
“People need food. Let’s give it to them,” Nikkel says.