By Nathan Stevens
July 20, 2012
In an increasingly competitive and cost-conscious agriculture and agri-business climate, sometimes there are unintended results for other organizations. Today, farmers and food processors are reconsidering the concept of waste and are seeking to turn all their raw materials into marketable or reusable items. The unintended result of this movement is that the Ontario Association of Food Banks is short on traditional supplies and is looking for farmers that are willing to help out in a number of different ways.
There are at least three key drivers that are shifting the needs of food banks. In Ontario, food banks have seen a decline in the normal range of product availability due to stronger efforts to reduce waste throughout the food system. Tough times have resulted in more families turning to food banks than in the past. Finally, local and health conscious citizens are calling for local, fresh food products to be made available at food banks to improve nutrition. Our food bank system in Ontario needs a fresh injection of new support.
The first way that farmers can help is to provide gleaning opportunities. The Association is looking for farms that would be interested in hosting volunteer teams to help glean excess produce that the farmer may not need or want. This product would in turn be donated to the local food bank. The Association is particularly interested in farms located within a forty-five minute drive of the Greater Toronto Area and west towards London, as well as the Ottawa region.
Donations are the second form of support that the Association is seeking from farmers.The Association is looking to connect with any farmers who would be interested in donating product into the provincial system. Depending on the size of the donation, the Association will either make arrangements for local food banks to pick up, or have large donations distributed provincially.
In an ideal world, all Canadians would earn enough to pay a fair price for their food, but there is the need to acknowledge the reality that people are facing hard times and need a helping hand. The combination of the drive for sustainability, waste reduction, and tough economic times are having an impact on food banks in Ontario. The Ontario Association of Food banks needs farmers that are interested and able to give a little help to our less fortunate members of society to step up and provide some help today.
Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.