I recently posted about National Sandwich Day with SUBWAY® Canada and how they will donate a meal to Food Banks Canada for every sandwich and drink purchased on November 3rd. I wanted to see how that would impact my largest local food bank, Winnipeg Harvest, a founding member of Food Banks Canada, so I dropped by at a food sort with local SUBWAY volunteers.
Winnipeg Harvest distributes food to approximately 64,000 Winnipeggers a month with the long term vision of closing its doors, as no one should have to rely on food banks, right?
1/3 of those receiving their services are two income families, which made my mouth drop! While I was impressed to hear how many mouths they feed, I was saddened by the following sobering statistics:
- 44% of the Winnipeggers they serve each month are CHILDREN!
- Manitoba has the 2nd highest food bank use in the country
- Food banks usage across Canada is up 26% – Manitoba is up 58%!
As I entered the building which expanded from 33,000 sq. ft to 55,000 sq. ft 6 years ago, I was greeted warmly at reception by the volunteer staff. Everywhere I walked in the building, I received a smile. So if you are in need of a smile, head on over there!
The organization is primarily run by volunteers, approximately 24,000 of them. These amazing people rack up about 330,000 hours a year! The staff to volunteer ratio is 1 to 9, so you can imagine without volunteers, Winnipeg Harvest would not be able to do what they do in the community.
There are many areas of Winnipeg Harvest to capture every aspect of the food distribution. The Abdo El Tassi Food Line Call Centre is run entirely by volunteers who receive 400 to 800 calls a day. As the holiday season nears, that number will bump up to 1,200 calls a day!
The most captivating area for me was the Emergency Food Access. In this area, not only is food organized, but personal care items as well. Folks in the community can access this service twice a month, and what they are given typically lasts up to 5 days.
Winnipeg Harvest is primarily about food distribution but they will pretty much take anything they can, except clothing.
Many of the volunteers are clients as well, so there is a small laundry area set up with washing machines and dryers. Another way to save money on expenses to increase their food budgets.
Winnipeg Harvest works with 400 community agencies in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba to distribute food to those in need. They even have specialty kits for those who may have celiac disease, or are diabetic. There are also no-meat kits available.
The only food item that Winnipeg Harvest has to purchase is baby formula, absolutely everything else is donated!
Local organizations are also a huge part of Winnipeg Harvest’s success. Peak of the Market donates close to 2 million pounds a year!
In the bakery area they process 8,000 loaves of bread a day (typically day old bread) and Natural Bakery does a fresh bread run every day and donates it! Oh, how I love my city! I was just beaming as I walked and talked with Kate, the Managing Director at Winnipeg Harvest.
They may be called Winnipeg Harvest but the organization works with Manitoba Rural Food Banks and go as far North as Tadoule Lake, MB. Kate says, “If people ask for food, whether they are in our area or not, we will send it.”
Over the years, they have received a variety of interesting donations. This is the mini food museum:
So right now you may be wondering, what does Winnipeg Harvest do with food that is nearing expiration?
Well, on Tuesday mornings, a few volunteers evaluate the surplus and anything they might have to throw out. They get on the phone with the 400 community agencies and advise them to come every 15 minutes to come take what they want so it doesn’t get thrown out and end up in landfills!
It gets better folks. Winnipeg Harvest even has their own community garden! It’s in the pic, in the fenced area behind those two cars!
I am still in awe at how much happens in this building. Outside of it, they have 13 trucks on the road, 6 days a week – moving 13.8 million pounds of food a year!
They don’t differentiate between paid or unpaid staff and recognize someone every month.
DID YOU KNOW? Winnipeg Harvest is the only food bank out of many who does not purchase food for distribution? Only donations!
They have an on-site training kitchen where folks can learn how to cook and all about nutrition. There is also a large training room with 23 different programs and workshops, from Intro to Computers, to Sign Language, to Forklift Training…all FREE to their clients. Winnipeg Harvest works with various partners in the community and since January 2016, they have placed clients in 94 jobs!
All in all, my heart is so very full at the citizenship displayed at Winnipeg Harvest and the many good things they are giving back to our community.
On National Sandwich Day, SUBWAY has made it super easy to help food banks across Canada as they all count on your help! So go and grab yourself a sub and drink, get one FREE to share with a friend and you’ll also be helping out some families in need.
If this post doesn’t compel you to buy a sandwich at Subway Canada on Thurs November 3rd, I don’t know what will!