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RFDA holding critical food drive this weekend

Harvest for Hunger being held at 14 local grocery outlets to help restock shelves for redistribution to local food banks and food programs.
Harvest for Hunger
Regional Food Distribution Association warehouse manager Andrew Distotell (from left), Our Kids Count's Tiffany Sullivan, RFDA board chair June Gaw, Salvation Army executive director Lori Mitchell, and the RFDA's Kelsey Agney and Brendan Carlin help kick off the annual Harvest for Hunger food drive in Thunder Bay on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – Without donations from the Regional Food Distribution Association, local food banks would struggle to stay afloat.

It’s why staff and volunteers from Our Kids Count and the Salvation Army will be lending a hand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at most local grocery stores in Thunder Bay, taking part in Harvest for Hunger.

Put on by the RFDA once a year, the food drive aims to restock the organization’s shelves and bring in $20,000 in cash donations to help pay for additional items.

The food in turn will be dispersed to local food banks to feed the city’s growing hungry population.

Lori Mitchell, executive director of the local Salvation Army chapter, said she runs one of the larger food banks in the city and relies heavily on donations from the RFDA to meet their food needs each month.

“We serve between 150 and 200 households a month and it’s really important for everybody to come together. We rely on donations for our food bank, and most of what we get comes from the RFDA,” Mitchell said.

“This food drive is really important.”

Not having a fully stocked RFDA – and the shelves are pretty barren at this time of year to begin with – would have a tremendous impact on the Salvation Army and its clients and services, Mitchell added.

“If we weren’t getting this through the RFDA, we would either have to do the legwork to get donations from people, or we’d have to pay for it,” Mitchell said. “We’re a member, so we get all of this for free, so that makes a huge impact on our budget and on our ability to serve the clients in our area.”

Tiffany Sullivan, the volunteer co-ordinator at Our Kids Count, said it would be tough to sustain their emergency food cupboard without the RFDA’s assistance.

“Last year it was accessed 1,764 times, feeding 4,623 people. Without this food drive, it would be extremely hard for us to fill our food cupboard and serve all these people who need help getting food,” Sullivan said.

June Gaw, chair of the RFDA’s board of directors, said the annual donation drive will take place at most grocery stores in Thunder Bay, including No Frills, Skaf’s, Westfort Foods, Real Canadian Superstore, Wal-Mart on Memorial Avenue, Odena’s in Kakabeka Falls and all Metro and Safeway locations.

“We are basically a food bank for food banks,” Gaw explained. “We supply all of our agencies with the food that we get from this food drive.”

Perishable goods, including pasta, peanut butter, canned goods and cereal are at the top of the list of items Gaw hopes to collect over the three-day event, as well as $20,000 in cash.

“We’re collecting donations from customers as they go into the store or as they come out and all this food will be picked up by RFDA trucks, brought back here and sorted. All of the food will work its way back out to our distributing agencies and feeding programs.”

With food-bank use on the rise and the holidays approaching, it’s a critical time of year for the RFDA, she added.

“The need is great, the need is tremendous and the numbers are increasing. I’m also chair of a food bank, so I’m seeing our numbers increase and I’m seeing a rise in seniors coming, which is really disheartening to get to that age and have to use a food bank. But this is what is happening.”

Harvest for Hunger is sponsored by 91.5 CKPR, Energy 103-104 and Rock 94.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 18 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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