A new food sharing initiative between Niagara food banks seeks to diversify customers while minimizing food waste.
Village of Hope Niagara (VoH) in Lincoln has partnered with three organizations, including Open Arms Mission in Welland, to share donations and food through their new network.
As food is given to organizations, they often find that they have too much of something and are unable to distribute it to customers before it expires. On the other hand, they may have too little of something and need to replenish their stocks.
For example, since VoH is in the Fruit Belt, they get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which can then be shared with a less rural area like Welland. VoH can then obtain canned goods to supplement its own stocks, balancing what is available at each food bank.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Cheryl Keddy-Scott, General Manager of Village of Hope Niagara.
So far, there are four partners in the program, and Keddy-Scott invites other food banks to join the project.
Over the past two months, the program has exchanged over 5,000 pounds of food.
“It’s great to see (food) coming into the homes and mouths of those who need it,” Keddy-Scott said.
Additionally, the initiative helps reduce food waste, as food banks often do not have sufficient cold storage for the amount of fresh food they can receive. Through this program, a food bank could exchange it with another in the area, so that the food reaches other customers.
Keddy-Scott estimates it reduces food waste by 10-20%.
The initiative comes at an important time when food bank registrations continue to increase. The pandemic caused a surge in enrollment, which Keddy-Scott predicted would plateau as the impact of COVID-19 waned.
However, the cost of living crisis has prompted more families to register for food bank services. Keddy-Scott estimates that three or four new families were signing up per week in early July.